Jim Richardson. Boreray.

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The sight was breathtaking. Tens of thousands of gannets flew out from cloud-wrapped Boreray to greet us as our boat pitched wildly on the Atlantic waves.

This uninhabited island is part of St. Kilda, forty miles out in the Atlantic beyond the Outer Hebrides.The last islanders abandoned St. Kilda in 1930, leaving it to the wild Atlantic storms and invoking melancholy memories of a lost world — and creating a haven for migrating and nesting seabirds like Gannets and Puffins. Together these stories of human abandonment and wildlife sanctuary have garnered St. Kilda dual UNESCO World Heritage Site awards.

When I came that evening I was simply seeking scenes of a remote island at sunset. I was disappointed to find Boreray shrouded in clouds. But as we came around the sun broke through and the birds swept down upon us in multitudes. The spectacle totally eclipsed my expectations, and here was the gift of wild splendor and transforming wonder. I remember whooping and hollering while the crew member held on to my belt so I wouldn’t plunge over the side and into the sea.

Jim Richardson is a photographer for National Geographic magazine and TRAVELER where he has produced over fifty stories during his four decade career. His work on environmental issues has focused on issues of food, agriculture and feeding the planet, light pollution’s threat to our night skies, and water issues surrounding rivers and aquifers. He is also noted for his extensive coverage of Scotland and his documentary photography of rural life on the Great Plains.

Follow Jim on Instagram @jimrichardsonng.

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