Botanic light show honours Scottish explorer

George Forrest collected more than 30,000 specimens in China and the Himalayas.
George Forrest collected more than 30,000 specimens in China and the Himalayas.
0
Have your say

Scotland’s answer to Indiana Jones is being celebrated in a spectacular new sound and light show in one of Edinburgh’s best known beauty spots.

The exploits of celebrated plant hunter George Forrest, who collected more than 30,000 specimens in China and the Himalayas, are being honoured at the Royal Botanic Garden.

A huge hologram of the Falkirk-born explorer, who made seven major expeditions overseas, will appear on the Chinese hillside area of the garden during its annual “Botanic Lights” event.

Starting tomorrow, it will deploy a host of through a host of special light, heat, sound scape and visual effects to take visitors on a journey to the United States, Chile, Nepal, the Tropics and the Arctic Circle.

The new show, which will run for the next 22 nights, has been designed by lighting artist Grant Anderson and composer Claire McKenzie to showcase the various parts of the world where the plants and trees in the garden originate from.

The show will feature a 35 ft tall image of Forrest, who was employed as a clerk at the Botanics in 1904 when he got the chance to join an expedition to China after impressing Isaac Bayley Balfour, then regius keeper, by finding human bones from the early Christian period on the bank of a reservoir.

On his first expedition he narrowly escaped death when the other members of the expedition were killed by Tibetan warrior priests. He hid out in the hills for 21 days, enduring hunger and exposure and was even reported dead.

Forrest earned a reputation as a meticulous, prolific collector of plant specimens and seeds, whose botanical observations were also of great value to scientists. On all his expeditions, dried plant specimens were sent back to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for identification and naming. He discovered some 1200 plant species in total, but died of a heart attack on his final expedition in 1932.

A spokeswoman for Botanic Lights, which runs until 6 November, said: “George Forrest’s work is remembered today at our Chinese Hillside, which celebrates our links with the Far East. As part of the Botanic Lights ‘Explore’ journey, the Chinese Hillside will be brought to life in a way that visitors have never experienced before, with the tales and sounds of the Orient, rich in history and tradition, as well as plant life.”

Heather Jackson, director of enterprise at the Botanics, said: “This year’s event is our most ambitious yet. The combination of our international plant collection and the imagination of the Botanic Lights’ designer will result in something magical. Above all, this wonderful display will help us to tell the story of the work we do and why. Each ticket sold will help to fund our important science and conservation work.

Anderson added: “Visitors may find that the familiar becomes strangely unfamiliar at Botanic Lights. They will get a sense, through sight and sound, that they are on a journey of discovery from China to the US, the Himalaya and Nepal, and on to the tropics, and the wonder of the chilly Arctic. The power of light and nature will transform the garden into an awesome adventure across the globe.”