The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

An Extinct Volcanic Range Just Discovered off Australia Is Bristling with Weird Little Fanged Fish and Other Strange Life.

by Owen James Burke


“The scaleless blackfish.” Photo: CSIRO.

While on a recent expedition off Sydney, Australia, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) discovered four extinct volcanoes, estimated to be about 50 million years old. What might be more interesting, however, is the life that they found. Roughly 200 meters below the surface of the Tasman Sea, they recorded some strange deep sea life, which—unlike the four extinct calderas—they’ve yet to make much sense of.

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Meet the 43′ 4X4 Ford Econoline Cabin Cruiser, The Boaterhome

by Owen James Burke

back of boaterhome

Photo via

This 1987 Ford Econoline 4×4 paired with a 28′ shallow V-hulled boat that sort of looks like a mini passenger ferry in the water. She sits low, with a relatively flat sheer line and a small bow, which probably means no offshore fishing trips, but she’ll hold her own on lakes (barring the Great Lakes on particularly foul days), bays and sounds–this would be the perfect machine for salmon season on Washington State’s Puget Sound.

That said, there was the Australian mining engineer (and madman) Ben Carlin and his converted 1942 GPW (General Purpose Willys) Ford amphibious U.S. Army jeep, the protagonists of James Nestor‘s book, Half-Safe: A Story of Love, Obsession, and History’s Most Insane Around-the-World Adventure. “It looked like a cross between a 4×4 and a rowboat,” Nestor wrote–and Carlin (along with wife, Elinore) endured hurricanes in that dinky little backwater launch. The military, which had never tested it on the high seas, later abandoned the vessel, ultimately deeming it unfit even for protected waters.


Photo via

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Wish You Were Here: Tropical Storm Erika – Reborn Off Folly Beach?

by Chris Dixon


The Remnants of Tropical Storm Erika. Will She Be Reborn off Charleston? Photo: Chris Dixon

Last night the remnants of Tropical Storm Erika rolled out off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina and and spun up over the Gulf Stream. This morning, the results of that spin were plainly, and beautifully apparent off Folly Beach, South Carolina.


Erika’s Swirl. Photo: NOAA. 

I rolled up at the south end of Folly just after dawn this morning and was greeted by a stunning, curved arc of grey-purple clouds, green ocean and a flawless thigh high swell. I grabbed my standup paddleboard and pointed it towards an ephemeral sandbar somewhere between a half mile and a mile to the south that was showing occasional whitewater. Folly’s northern and southern stretches are ringed by these shallows. If it’s low-tide and glassy, swells wrap, bend and peel across them before disappearing into deep water. If you know where to look, well, you get the picture.


Nobody Out. As is Usually the Case. Photo: Chris Dixon

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Here’s Your Chance to Join a Shark Tagging Expedition with OCEARCH

by Owen James Burke

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You will have to pass a quick shark quiz, mind you. Screenshot from Costa/OCEARCH.

Led by veteran shark tagger and former National Geographic TV show host Chris Fischer, OCEARCH has been one of the most prolific nonprofit shark research organizations since they launched their groundbreaking Global Shark Tracker program in 2013, through which you can keep tabs on every shark they’ve ever tagged, in real time.

Earlier this year, Outside Online profiled Fischer and OCEARCH, suggesting that the organization, despite heavy criticism by many as being a bunch of big-game fishermen masquerading as ecologists, might be the last hope of the great white shark.

Now through September 21st, OCEARCH is running a sweepstakes through which a few lucky winners will be invited to join the crew on a shark tagging expedition (location TBD).

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The Last of the Sea Silk Spinners?

by Owen James Burke


Above: Chiara Vigo with her Sea silk, or bissus, the cloth of pharaohs, kings and queens. Photo: Andrea Pasquali.

Most silk is made from cocoon husks, but for some pharaohs, kings and queens of yore, worm spit simply wouldn’t do. For them, there was another, rarer silk to be coveted, and it came from clams.

Chiara Vigo harvests byssal threads (known collectively as byssus), the hair-like fibers that allow clams and other bivalves to attach to hard surfaces like rocks. Spinning and dying these coarse, drab strands by hand, she may be among the last of her craft, but not if she has anything to say about it.


Photo: Andrea Pasquali.

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Wish You Were Here: Aitutaki, Cook Islands, By Night

by Owen James Burke


Photo: David Rofall.

Aitutaki (aka Araura, Ararau and Utataki) is a 7-square-mile island ringed by a lush triangular barrier reef and a soft white sand lagoon. Despite it being the second-most visited of the Cook Isles, there’s not a lot happening on Aitutaki, and maybe that’s why we like it.

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Dolphins as Midwives? The Mother-to-Be Who’s Forgoing Hospitals and Nurses for an Open-Ocean, Cetacean-Assisted Waterbirth

by Owen James Burke

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Dorina Rosin and her partner Maika Suneagle have decided to give birth in the ocean, hoping for a pod of dolphins off Hawaii’s Big Island to act as midwives. Photo: Photo: © Channel 4 (Great Britain). Video below.

Science journalist Christie Wilcox wrote for Discover Magazine in 2013 that the concept of seeking dolphins as midwives “has to be, hands down, one of the worst natural birthing ideas anyone has ever had . . .” Considering the myriad documentation we have of their bullying and raping of not only one another but different species, including humans, she may have a point.

But, we have far more history with these magnificent creatures suggesting that they tend to be much more affectionate, or at least intuitive toward human beings, especially those of us in distress.

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Wish You Were Here: Freshly-Dived Scallops, Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand

by Owen James Burke

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand, living in a house truck with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds might just have the best scallops on the planet. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I forgot my dive fins yesterday, so it was a bit of a strain getting down to scallop depth (25-30 feet), especially in my floaty surfing wetsuit, but I managed to pull up a few, and at least I remembered the lemon.

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