The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: new england

Wish You Were Here: The Lobster Roll. A South Sea Interpretation.

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

IMG_6273 (1)

Photo: Owen James Burke.

This past week, I’ve been spending a lot of time rooting around in the kelp-laden rocks along the lobster-rich eastern shore of New Zealand, where spring tides bring the post-spawn crustaceans into the shallows.

So, naturally, having had lobster–or ‘crayfish’ as they’re known in New Zealand–about nine different ways (sashimi–still my favorite, steamed, seared in oil with chillies, curried, in a taco . . .) I couldn’t help but turn back and attempt to recreate the simple but classic New England lobster roll–or at least my South Pacific take on the dish–as I knew it growing up.

Read more»

“I was Screaming Sea Shanteys and Shoutin’ at the Gods!” A Glimpse Inside John Lennon’s Sailing Diary.


John Lennon. Bermuda Bound. Photo Source: Unknown. 

When I was a kid, I was a Beatles fanatic. I was turned onto the band, by my mom of all people, who for some reason gave me the album Magical Mystery Tour when I was maybe nine years old. For some reason too deep for my young mind to fathom, I literally wore out the vinyl grooves pondering its dense layers of sound and meaning. Yellow Submarine and Revolver would have the same effect. The band’s legend was always writ a little more large for me because my aunt lived in a building called the Oliver Cromwell, right across the street from the Dakota, which was home to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. She caught occasional glimpses of the pair ducking in and out of their home right there in front of Central Park. I always craned my neck when we walked by the Dakota, but never got my own glimpse. When Lennon was shot, 35 years ago yesterday, I remember my aunt telling me how for days it was nearly impossible to leave her building for of all the mourners. Even though I was only in eighth grade, I wished I could have been among them.

Today, Scuttlefish commodore Brian Lam hipped me to something I didn’t know about Lennon. He actually became a pretty hardcore sailor late in life. In fact, he credits a hairball journey in June, 1980 from Rhode Island to Bermuda with curing a debilitating bout of writer’s block. It was a voyage that inspired “Watching the Wheels,” “I’m Losing You,” and an early version of “Woman.”


John Lennon and his son Sean. Photo source: Unknown. 

Read more»

Is Kelp the New Kale, Omega-3 Supplement, Snack, Animal Feed, Bacon – or even Gasoline?


Illustration of Bren Smith’s 3-D ocean farm. Image from

There is a revolving door in global markets for food fads. Coconut water and related products have become a billion-dollar industry. Kale, in the ‘chip’ form alone, made about two hundred million dollars last year. But there is a new contender that is gaining in popularity, sneaking up on a number of different food products and may turn out to be far more than just a fad – seaweed.

I’ve always been fascinated with seaweed, especially since my husband is an ecologist who studies algae, and I’ve worked with him on several studies, as well as in the aquaculture world. So last week’s article by Dana Goodyear  in The New Yorker was especially interesting

The article laid out the future of seaweed on the American plate – “A New Leaf: Seaweed Could be a Miracle Food—If We Can Figure Out How to Make it Taste Good”. In the article, Goodyear explores all the potential roads to success for the ‘sea vegetable’, especially against the backdrop of seaweed as a carbon negative crop; as a conservation measure to restore seaweed habitat and the thousands of marine species that rely on it, and as a way to mitigate impacts of run-off due to the fantastic ability of seaweed to absorb nitrogen and phosphorus.

Goodyear features Bren Smith – a fisherman turned entrepreneurial ocean farmer, who wants to bring sustainable seaweed and shellfish to a table near you. Smith is a lifelong commercial fisherman, who turned to aquaculture as a way to restore jobs for out of work fishermen, and help hedge against climate change, while creating an environmentally-friendly farm that has zero inputs.


Kelp harvest. Image from at Thimble Island Ocean Farm.

Thimble Island Ocean Farm, off Stony Creek, Connecticut is the equivalent of 3-acres of ocean surface and 6 feet in depth. Smith’s approach has been a multi-trophic and integrated ocean farm, which means numbers of different species are raised in the same area. In addition to seaweed, Smith also harvests marine invertebrates including mussels, scallops, and clams. His farm is self-sustaining and he told The New Yorker that, “…The farm is a reef for hundreds of species. This is what you want to see. This is good, restorative ocean farming.”

For an in-depth, 2014 Scuttlefish interview with Smith check out: Life in Salt: A Talk with Bren Smith, Owner of Thimble Island Oysters and Long Island Sound’s First Vertical 3D Ocean Farm.

Read more»

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


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.

Read more»

Happy Halloween From Your Friends at The Scuttlefish!


Image from



Trainers at the New England Aquarium provided pumpkins for the seals and sea lions to explore as a festive means of enrichment. Exploring new textures and shapes and smells is a fun activity that keeps these marine mammals healthy and happy. This is how the Leu the fur seal and Zoe the sea lion celebrated Halloween! Image from the New England Aquarium.


To all of our readers! Have a safe and happy Halloween!




Watch: A Foul-Mouthed New Englander Sees an Ocean Sunfish for the First Time, and Hilarity Ensues

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 7.15.20 PM

“Oh man, we’re cawlin’ the Coast Gahd! . . . That’s a tuner er somethin’ bro!” The above screenshot doesn’t do the audio in the video below any justice. Screenshot from Michael Bergin’s video.

Poor Michael Bergin just can’t make up his mind. First he wants to call the aquarium, then he wants to call the Coast Guard, then he wants to be the hero and save the sunfish himself, and finally, he decides he wants to kill the beast and take it to market: “If that’s a flounda man, let’s pull it in Jay. Come on. Jay, we can get some big money for that if it’s a f—– fish man.”

Read more»

Woods Hole’s Deepsea Challenger Scorched in Connecticut Truck Fire


Photo: Sean D. Elliot/AP.

While on her way south to Baltimore where she was to be shipped to Australia (on loan), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s (WHOI) submarine, Deepsea Challenger, was damaged after the truck toting her down Interstate 95 caught fire.

Fortunately, the blaze doesn’t appear to have claimed the entire sub, which happens to be the deepest-diving machine on this big blue marble.

Read more»

The Canadian-American War Over Two Tiny, Treeless Maritime Islands

1942 Eric Aldwinckle and Albert E. Cloutier. Lick them over there

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Lobstermen are a brutish breed; I say this only because I grew up amongst them. Even at 12 and 13 years of age while fishing in my small skiff, Blues Dory, I had horrific confrontations with them. Guns were drawn, expletives were shouted. All at a young boy quietly fishing in his little open skiff.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 4.10.42 AM

Above: The American, true, northern, or Maine lobster (Homarus americanus), depending on whom you ask. Others just call it Maritime gold. Photo: Santa Barbara Fish Market.

It’s a precious commodity those men spend their lives chasing, and they’ll guard their traps and their catch to the bitter end.

Above: Machias Seal Rock, one of two disputed islands between the Gulf of Maine (USA) and New Brunswick (CA), upon which only Canada has staked its flag. Photo: Fred J. Field/CP.

A pair of islands in what is called “the gray area” between the United States and Canada are more or less barren, arid low-lying protrusions from the sea–rocks, really. One, called North Rock, is home to a gray seal colony. The other, Machias Seal Rock, is a puffin sanctuary and Canada’s (or so they claim) last manned lighthouse. It’s also only .1 square kilometers and uninhabitable, for all intents and purposes. So why has a battle between The United States and Canada continued to quietly ensue since, well, The American Revolution?

Read more»