The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Month: December, 2015

On the Road to Meet the Andaman Sea Gypsies. Part II: Boating Amongst the Slaveships in Myeik, Burma.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

A pale-gray haze lay over the port of Myeik, backed by a droning cacophony of outboard motors and dredges. Few were talking. Almost no one was smiling. The scene looked bleak, and the scarcity of the sun didn’t brighten the picture.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

But then almost all commercial fishing ports carry this tone. It was only later, in Thailand, that I came to realize how close to the edge of hell some of these people were living.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

With no permission granted from the government to visit the Mergui Archipelago where the Moken–a small, disenfranchised group of sea-dwelling ethnic Austronesians known in Burma as the Selung–are said to live, I had left Yangon for Myeik, 535 miles to the south where my travel agent–though she’d advised against it–suggested I might find a captain willing to sneak me out to meet the elusive virtuosos of the sea.

My flight had landed earlier that day and I’d caught a motorcycle taxi straight down to the port of Myeik, which I was told would be the busiest and therefore likeliest harbor for me to hitch a ride out to the Mergui Archipelago where the Moken are said to weather monsoon season.

I had no intention of spending a single night in Myeik–I’d already lost enough time in Yangon. It was still early in the morning, and as far as I could tell, the weather looked fair enough to set sail for open water.

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This Is Life in an Andaman Sea Village During Monsoon Season. A Photo Essay.

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One moment, the Burmese coast of the Andaman Sea looked like this, frenzied and white-horsed, with gale force winds and pelting–literally stinging–rain. The next, it would abate to the sobering serenity of still air and blue skies. All of this has no bearing on the people living in small stilted villages on the Andaman Sea, who make their homes and feed their children day-in, day-out, year-round, come wind, hail, rain or shine. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Watching these small narrow boats fade out on the horizon behind a line of squalls chilled my bones to the marrow. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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The sound of the rain meeting this tarpaulin-tin city was tremendous. It hushed all conversation and jarred your concentration. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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But then, moments later, it would look like this, but regardless of the weather, tide or hour, these longboats seemed to be buzzing in and out port all day long. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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A Little Tribute to my Late, Great Friend Sean Collins – via NPR’s Science Friday

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Sean Collins with one of his early hand-drawn maps of swell, reef and bathymetry.
Photo: Chris Dixon

It’s damned difficult for me to believe, but it’s been four years since surf forecaster Sean Collins died of a heart attack. He wasn’t surfing some off-the-grid Baja point break, but simply enjoying a game of tennis. Sean was a buddy, a competitor and a colleague since I first met him back in 1995 when we were working on the respective launches of Surfline.com and Surfermag.com(here’s a Wayback Machine link to one of the site’s first home pages, built using raw HTML). Collins’ Surfline.com would become the world’s first definitive online surf forecasting service. And though Collins kept some cards very close to his chest, he and I talked technology and where this new thing called the World Wide Web was heading at least once a week. Like any competitors, we butted heads occasionally, but I constantly marveled at his discipline and the technology Sean managed to pioneer; live surf cameras, wave models and cellular modems to broadcast big wave contests from a boat off Todos Santos. Without his early warnings of swells, I never would have had some of my surf stories published in The New York Timesand it’s arguable that my book Ghost Wave would never have seen a printing press.

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Wish You Were Here: On a Boat Somewhere in the Andaman Sea, On the Way to Meet the Andaman Sea Gypsies

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

Several months ago, I visited the Burmese and Thai coasts of the Andaman Sea hoping to meet a nationless seafaring people of Austronesian ethnicity known as the Moken or Selung. I wanted to find out how they survive the monsoon months, when pelting rain and violent gales sweep across the Andaman Sea almost daily with little warning and no mercy. This would become one of those days.

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Watch Kelly Slater Surf His New Wave Pool for the Very First Time

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“Seeing that, I’m a hundred percent positive our team built the best wave that anyone’s ever made. It’s a freak of–technology.” — Kelly Slater. Screenshot from the video below.

There have been a handful of artificial waves popping up around the world, but Kelly Slater and Co.’s most recent endeavor is incontestably the best yet. ‘Nuff said.

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Screenshot from the video below.

Watch a giddy Mr. Slater break it in below.

OJB

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Watch: This Is What It’s Like to Glide Between Two Continents in Iceland’s Silfra Fissure

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Screenshot from Hashem Al-Ghaili’s video.

Silfra fissure, in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park holds some of the clearest, cleanest water on the face of the earth. It’s also where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet, but not for much longer, relatively speaking.

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Screenshot from Hashem Al-Ghaili’s video.

The Silfra fissure is diverging at a rate of about 2 centimeters per year, but there are still parts of the fissure where you can place your palms on both continental plates, for now.

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Wish You Were Here: Traveling the Lost Coast, Northern California

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Somewhere along the northern reaches of California State Highway One. Photo: Owen James Burke.

There are few places left on earth as rife with life as Northern California’s Lost Coast. Several years ago, after abandoning my partner, job and apartment to hop into the back of a van and go salmon fishing with a couple of friends, I encountered these lonely little peaks along the road. With no board or wetsuit–this was strictly a fishing mission–we had to pass them by, but the empty A-frames along this desolate stretch of beach have been on my mind ever since. Someday, I keep telling myself. . . .

How was the salmon fishing, you ask? I think this picture speaks for itself:

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

–OJB

“The Lady of the Lake.” This Is What the Gales of November Look Like on Lake Erie

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“There have been moments on Lake Erie where I have lowered my camera,looked over it & literally out loud said to myself “What. The. Hell… Did I just see” and my jaw drops.. This was one of those moments” — Photographer Dave Sandford.

. . . And, this is the weather that took down the 729-foot iron ore carrier the Edmund Fitzgerald on nearby Lake Superior over 40 years ago this fall.

London photographer Dave Sandford wanted to see the gales of November on the Great Lakes for himself, so he set out for Canada this past fall to capture some of the most treacherous conditions Lake Erie could produce. The results are enough to evoke terror and humility in any waterperson, salty or sweet.

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