The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: Scotland

Last Man Off: Author and Shipwreck Survivor Matt Lewis Discusses Disaster, Survival and Regret in the Southern Ocean

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Above: Likely the last (recoverable) photo taken of the Sudur Havid. All of Mr. Lewis’ photos from the voyage lie beneath the South Atlantic, somewhere to the west-northwest of South Georgia Island.

In April of 1998, a 23-year-old marine biologist named Matt Lewis boarded the Sudur Havid, a commercial fishing vessel headed for the Southern Ocean in search of Patagonian toothfish (better known for its more common market name, “Chilean sea bass”). He was to be a scientific observer, documenting the vessel’s catch. It was his first job out of school.

The vessel was to spend several months at sea between the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties and the Screaming Sixties, great conveyor belts of wind and current, named in reference to the almost constant 40-60-knot winds and 40-60-foot seas that occur within those southern latitudes. It was an adventurous gig – the kind of thing a young, freshly lettered bachelor is supposed to get himself into.

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“With my mum and sister in Somerset before the trip, 1997. I know: bad hair, dreadful beard, but I was young.” Photo courtesy of Matt Lewis.

Two months into the excursion, the Sudur Havid was off South Georgia Island in a heavy storm, possibly overloaded, but continuing to fish, per usual, when the ship’s factory (where the fish are processed and frozen) began to take on water. The inboard pumps, which were used to drain the factory, became clogged, and stopped working. Slowly, the ship began to list, and the reality that she would have no chance of making port set in amongst the crew. South Georgia Island was 170 miles away–too far for helivac–and South Africa and South America were both well over 1,000 miles away.

Now it was a nightmare.

The ship, which Lewis, junior amongst the crew, had assumed was prepared for such an emergency, was carrying unserviced life rafts and no survival suits. The water over the rail was as good as freezing, about 32.5° fahrenheit (~0.25° celsius)–a temperature at which even a healthy human body can last no more than 45 minutes.

“When you’re in trouble, you pull together, fight together, try to laugh and keep your spirits up. But there’s only so much you can do when the water is so cold.”

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An Astonishing Day of Waves From Europe to Lake Tahoe

Antonio Silva. Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal. December 11, 2014. Screen Grab: Humberto Santos/ASP/XXL 

It’s probably not escaped your your attention that there are currently two major storms lashing the western coasts of North America, where a big dent is being made in the worst California drought in at least 1200 yearsand Europe, where England and Scotland are being blitzed by one of the mightiest North Atlantic storms ever. The United Kingdom and Ireland have been raked by 80 mile per hour winds while Scotland’s remote St. Kilda Islands reported a gust of 144 miles per hour. The equivalent of a strong category 4 hurricane.

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We May Have Prehistoric Fish to Thank for Finding Pleasure in Sex

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(Image via BBC)

385-million-year-old fossils found by a team of international scientists in Scotland are believed to be the remnants of the first known animals to engage in sexual reproduction, and wouldn’t you know it, they were fish.

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The Best Mountain Biker on Earth Meets One of Earth’s Most Beautiful Islands

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Danny MakAskill, Isle of Skye, Photo: Red Bull’s The Ridge.

A few days ago, Scottish mountain bike Houdini Danny MacAskill released a hypnotic homage to the island where he was born. MacAskill has become internationally famous in the last five years for his preternatural riding skills, and the mesmerizing video edits that showcase them. In this video, Danny Boy rows his bike to the base of the towering peaks of his homeland on the mystically lovely Isle of Skye. There, he risks everything to ride terrain that most of us wouldn’t even attempt on two feet. As a fairly addicted mountain biker for the last two and a half decades, I can safely proclaim this film to be the most inspirational reason to ride I’ve ever seen. Of course to some, it could also provide the perfect excuse to never climb on a bike at all.

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