The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: freedive

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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Dive Moken, The Andaman Sea Gypsy Freediving App

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Photo: Dive Moken.

The Moken are a seminomadic seafaring people somehow maintaining a subsistence-based living in the Mergui Archipelago (off Myanmar and Thailand) in the Andaman Sea, referred to as “sea gypsies”. As modern governments, industry, technology and other societal trappings continue to threaten their way of life, one freediving app is, ironically, working to initiate awareness and help secure a sustainable future for this magnificent culture.

The Moken–for how many thousands of years it is unclear–have spent their entire lives at sea, developing and passing on a remarkable set of maritime knowledge, heritage and ingenuity, and when it comes to freediving, the Moken are said, at least by some, to be the best in the world. They are known for diving to depths of 100 feet and greater, without fins, weights, or even goggles, all on a single breath. Some can stay submerged for as long as five minutes. As children, they even learn to contract their pupils in order to see more clearly underwater, as to this day, goggles remain a luxury.

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(Mis)Adventures in #Vanlife with Raw Paua. Part III. A Tired Old Truck and a Boatful of Holes.

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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Above: Raw Paua, cooked. Queen Charlotte Drive shows no mercy on a tired old truck and a boatful of holes.

Raw Paua and I took a tour down the east coast of the south island last week, and it began swimmingly. She steamed over two mountain passes and hugged the cliffs nicely along mile after mile of winding coast.

We made camp, and although it was nearly freezing, turning on the broiler to heat a lamb roast (as one does in the land of sheep) warmed me up enough to patter away at the keyboard until the wee hours and comfortably turn in.

The next day, we ventured back up the coast, where we surfed, made fires, and met a crazy Valencian who’s in the process cycling around the perimeter of the island nation.

A couple of days of foul weather and Raw Paua and I decided to make for home base back at the top of the South Island. That was when the smoke started.

I pulled over to the side of the road where a splendid, unridden right-hander was reeling along the beach under a soft pastel sky with nary a surfer in sight. The wave looked enticing, but this wasn’t the time. I had a crisis on my hands.

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Then again, in retrospect . . . Photo: Owen James Burke.

Lifting the hood, I was met with a face full of smoke and the alarming, nauseating, intoxicating stench of boiling radiator coolant; it wasn’t exactly the afternoon buzz I was hoping to catch.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Wish You Were Here: Long, Fishless, Surfless Days in New Zealand

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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All quiet on the Tindori bow. As a Hawaiian fisherman once told me after one fruitless day of chasing marlin off Maui, “Da sea gotta win sometimes, too, bruddah!” Photo: Satoshi Fukase.

Sometimes you zig when you should have zagged. According to the surf report from the night before, 9am was the time to be at the rivermouth. When I woke up at 8, the air was as still and warm as it’d been all winter (it’s late winter “down under”) and the skies were clear. Who knows, we might even have paddled out without our heads bound in neoprene.

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The end of a long, fish-less, surf-less day with Raw Paua. Yes, I have sheep for neighbors. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I climbed into the wheelhouse of Raw Paua at 8:30 and, looking at my fuel gauges (I have two tanks), remembered that one was reading empty, and the other had been stuck at a half a tank for over a week. In summation, I was clueless as to whether I had enough fuel to make the 5 mile drive to the rivermouth and back.

Slapping together a cursory morning meal, I decided to chance the 10-12 mile trip up State Highway 1 to the next town, which happens to be the only place within something like 50 miles, I’m discovering, where I can get my fuel (propane) tanks filled.

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

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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Back in Salt: I Went to Help a Freediving Amputee Get His Gills Back. He Dove Deeper Than I Did.

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Ever wonder what it feels like to lose your favorite thing on the face of the earth at the drop of a dime only to find that a year later, you’ve still got it? Me neither. I couldn’t even envision it, but it might look something like this. Screenshot: Michael McEntee’s YouTube video.

A few weeks ago, a friend, fellow expatriate and US Marine called “Mac” rang me up to see if I wanted to join him on a freediving/spearfishing trip to the Queen Charlotte Sound. It’s one of several embayments that make up the Marlborough Sounds, an emerald maze of deep flooded valleys lying just below the fiercely tormented waters of New Zealand’s Cook Strait.

Mac’s Kiwi friend Brent Bythell was spending the weekend out on “the Sounds” and had planned a freedive for scallops, which were just coming into season.

“Sure,” I said without reservation. I’d never caught a scallop before.

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Still days like these on the Marlborough Sounds are hard to beat–unless you’re sailing, that is. Photo: Owen James Burke.

It turns out that Brent is in recovery after an infection crept up his foot, leg, and eventually into his spine. He showed up at the hospital complaining of a curiously numb right foot, but was shocked to learn that he had developed gangrene. Brent had to undergo an emergency amputation of the lower part of his leg and he’s now nearly paralyzed from the waist down. The simple fact that he’s alive today is nothing short of a miracle. With the help of a crutch and prosthetic limb, Brent actually gets around pretty damn well–on land anyway.

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Natalia Molchanova, 53, Disappears into the Depths off Ibiza, and the World Loses Its Greatest Free Diver

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Above: Natalia Molchanova, world champion free diver, presumed dead. Photo: Daan Verhoeven.

Natalia Molchanova has often been hailed as the best free diver in the world and few, apart from perhaps the sperm whale, would be in any position to make a point of contention. In 2013, she became the first woman to break the 100 meter mark, diving off Kalamata, Greece during the world championships. Throughout her career, she’s set 41 world records and claimed 23 world championship titles–that’s every woman’s record except for the “zero limits” category. Today, she is missing and tragically, presumed dead.

This past Sunday in the Balearic Sea off Ibiza, Spain, she made a routine plunge into the deep blue while instructing two inexperienced free divers. Worry set in several minutes later when she was expected to surface, but was nowhere to be seen. Seconds turned to minutes and it became evident that something had gone badly wrong.

The competitive free diver is a unique breed, and their high-risk pursuits extend well beyond simple athleticism or acclaim. For Ms. Molchanova, free diving had at least as much to do with a spiritual identity. “Free diving is not only sport, it’s a way to understand who we are,” she explained to The Times last year:

“When we go down, if we don’t think, we understand we are whole. We are one with world. When we think, we are separate. On surface, it is natural to think and we have many information inside. We need to reset sometimes. Free diving helps do that.”

“It seems she’ll stay in the sea,” her son, Alexey Molchanov–also a world champion freediver– told The New York Times. “I think she would like that.”

Read the full story at The New York Times. -OJB

This Is How Subsistence Fishermen Hunt the Danajon Bank in the Philippines, By Night

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Photo: Thomas P. Peschak/NatGeo.

Fishing, almost the world over, is better at night. No one knows this better than those who live–and subsist–by shallow reefs, which come alive at night when otherwise vigilant critters grow hungry and let up their guard up to go on the prowl.

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