The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: lore

Goodbye (for now)

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Coming in 2017. A big book from your ocean loving friends at The Scuttlefish and Chronicle Books. 

Hey all, after a few years, hundreds of weird and interesting stories, and a lot of fun it’s time to put The Scuttlefish on pause. Several months ago, Chris Dixon and I had an idea for an ocean related book. That idea turned into a proposal, and that proposal has become a contract with Chronicle Books, publisher of among other titles, Chris’s Ghost Wave, Matt Warshaw’s The History of Surfing, The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook and of course, Darth Vader and Son.

We are keeping the details under wraps for now, but it’s a project that we couldn’t pass up and there’s not enough time in the day to do both the book and this site. The Scuttlefish has gone into hibernation before, though and I’m sure it’ll come back in a different form, one day. Thanks to our faithful readers – and the ocean – for all the inspiration.

Thank you to Chris Dixon, Owen J. Burke, Mark Lukach, Carolyn Sotka and other contributors who put their love for the sea into so many fine words and photos on The Scuttlefish. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again.  – BL

Wish You Were Here: The Birthplace of Aotearoa and the Māori People – Hokianga Harbor, New Zealand

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After what is now New Zealand’s discovery, the islands were named ‘Aotearoa’ which means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’; seen here in the entrance to the Hokianga Harbor from the Tasman Sea. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

With the ancient Kauri forest shrinking in our rear mirror, my family set off for the west coast of New Zealand with a calm, revered silence from being in the presence of the giant 2000 year old trees. As we slowly lumbered through the woods, thick trees thinned and gave way to rolling hills. A final corner turned and we were met with one of the most magnificent vistas I have ever seen.

Ahead lay the Hokianga Harbor, with bright, golden sand dunes, contrasted against turquoise waters and cliffs peppered with bushes and flowers. Everything about our trip to New Zealand was unexpected, especially this moment. Reminiscent of Big Sur, California with a mix of Vermont and Ireland and pinch of the Swiss Alps in summer, this place was so unique, yet so familiar.

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The Kauri coast leading to the Hokianga Harbor. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

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Watch a Family of Bottlenose Dolphins Rescue a Struggling Seal Pup Under Siege off Canada

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Screenshot from the Oasis HD video below.

The seal cub, either tired, confused or frightened, was lagging off the coast of Canada when a few gulls prepared to gang up on the lagging pup.

Suddenly, as is their mysterious wont, a family of bottlenose dolphins appeared and encouraged the young pup to keep swimming with a series of gentle nudges.

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More (Mis)Adventures in #Vanlife: No More Bananas Permitted Aboard Raw Paua.

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van 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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Photo: Owen James Burke.

The first time I was old enough to begin my quasi-annual fly fishing trips with my Uncle Thom, I pulled a banana from my boat bag about an hour into our day’s outing. Within what felt like the blink of an eye, the once-bitten banana was out of my hand and drifting downstream past the boat.

I wish I could have seen the confusion smeared across face. I have no doubt that my uncle got a kick out of it.

He later brought to my attention the old angler’s adage: never take bananas aboard a boat. Why?

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. . . Here’s why. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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The He’s-at-Home: A 19th Century Tool for When Whalers Were Away, And Faithful Wives Wanted to Play

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There once was a box on Nantucket, up the chimney an old lady did stuff it. Contents: An empty laudanum bottle, a tobacco pipe, letters to and from a Mr. James B. Coffin, and a plaster phallus, which, purportedly, belonged to his wife, Mattie. Photo: The Common Online.

“Cape Horn Widows” was the collective epithet applied to New England women whose husbands were years away, in pursuit of sperm whales around Cape Horn during the 19th century. Fidelity, sailors knew, was a hard thing to ask of a woman whom they would not see for years at a time. So it became tradition for yankee sailors to return from the orient with things like opium and laudanum in an attempt to subdue any romantic escapades that might take place while they were at sea, themselves, in some cases, galavanting their own way– but with absolute anonymity–through far-flung ports.

Rumor also has it, thanks to some residual literature (see below) but also a chimney mason’s discovery, that sailors took to the tradition of gifting their wives exotic phalluses crafted of either porcelain or carved ivory in what was probably a desperate attempt to keep them faithful.

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The Last Dive Into Devil’s Hole.

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James Houtz came into this world nearly 80 years ago during a raging snowstorm. He lived the first three years of his life in a tiny Colorado outpost called Allen’s Park, but at the age of four, he and his older sister moved to Catalina Island after their mother was offered a job running a popular Girl Scout camp. When the Houtz’s weren’t on the island, they lived in an equally remote cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains above Los Angeles. Jim was rarely indoors, spending his early years hiking playing and hunting in the hills or diving and spearfishing in Catalina’s crystalline waters. Eventually he also took up surfing, growing particularly fond of the long pointbreak rollers around Santa Barbara.

A fanatical obsession with diving eventually led Houtz to enlist in the U.S. Navy’s submarine forces on an underwater demolition team – the precursor unit to the SEALS. He dove to recover spent torpedoes and Regulus II missiles (the first nukes ever to be launched from submarines) and led in acoustical experiments aimed at helping ships and subs run silent through the water.

Houtz was honorably discharged in 1960. He became a diving instructor and fell in with a team of experimental mermen who were working determine what sorts of exotic cocktail of oxygen, nitrogen, helium and other inert gasses might prevent the deadly state of deep dive drunkenness known as nitrogen narcosis.

By the early mid 1960’s, Houtz began a well-publicized mapping exploration of the deepest depths of a gigantic, tidally influenced western aquifer whose sole connection to the earth’s surface is a tiny volcanic fissure near Death Valley – a scar called Devils’ Hole. The hole is home to a critically endangered species, the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, and is steeped in lore. Native Americans held that a beast hid in its depths that would leap from the water and pull careless humans to their deaths. The Reverend Ethan Allen believed it a gateway to Hell, while Charles Manson thought his Family could hide safely in its depths during the coming chaos of Helter Skelter, and find a lost city of gold.

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Merl Dobry and Jim Houtz inch their way through a narrow passage on the way to Brown’s Room. The photograph illuminated a world of utter darkness darkness at 92 feet. Photo courtesy, Jim Houtz.

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On the Shoulders of Giants. Honoring Sean Collins, Larry “Flame” Moore and the Greatest Big Wave Discovery of the 21st Century; Cortes Bank

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A couple of months ago, Surfline’s editorial director Dave Gilovich reached out and asked if I’d be interested in helping put together a big feature that honored our friends Sean Collins, the late, great founder of Surfline.com, and Larry “Flame” Moore, the late, great photo editor of Surfing Magazine. The idea was to create a narrative web and film-based feature on Sean and Flame’s proudest moment – the first successful big wave expedition to surf of the titanic waves of the Cortes Bank. The mission dropped the collective jaws of the surfing world, led to the first of Mike Parsons’ two world records, and left surfers wondering what the hell else is out there over the horizon?

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The Japanese Mini-Subs of the Pearl Harbor. Terry Kerby on a Discovery that Rewrote History. A Scuttlefish Feature.

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Terry Kerby at the viewing port of the deep sea sub, Pisces V. He was looking through this view port when he found a tiny Japanese submarine that rewrote the history of World War II.
Photo: Chris Dixon

Last week, The New York Times published a story I wrote that posed a question: Do Humans Have a Future in Deep Sea Exploration? The story focused on a pioneering deep sea submersible pilot named Terry Kerby and the laboratory he oversees on Oahu’s windward coast. The laboratory, part of the University of Hawaii and better known as HURL, has been the most important United States deep-sea research outpost in the mid-Pacific since the 1980s. As HURL’s chief pilot, Kerby is perhaps the most experienced submersible navigator alive. With a crew of five, Mr. Kerby and his twin Pisces submarines have discovered more than 140 wrecks and artifacts, recovered tens of millions of dollars in lost scientific equipment, and surveyed atolls and seamounts whose hydrothermal vents and volcanoes were unknown.

 

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Kerby’s discoveries, made alongside the likes of Dr. Robert Ballard and Dr. Sylvia Earle, have rewritten the history of World War II and changed our very understanding of the deep ocean. But in 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it would be cutting off the meager funding that helped keep HURL and its subs afloat. Today, Kerby faces the possible mothballing of his fleet – and the world faces the loss of ¼ of the planet’s human-piloted deep subs. The forces at play are the same as in many other realms of science — dwindling budgets – NOAA’s deep sea exploration budget is $26 million per year, while NASA’s space exploration budget is on the order of $4 billion. Then, of course, there’s the issue of robots.

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