The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: spearfishing

Life in Salt: Tom Neale – A Look Back at his Sixteen Years on a Deserted Island in the South Pacific


Tom Neale. Image from his book An Island to Oneself.

In 1952, a man left his life of wanderlust to settle down. At fifty years old, it was time to lay some roots. After all, Tom Neale had been traveling the South Pacific for close to thirty years. But his new, domesticated life would be far from typical. Rather than a house in the suburbs and a white picket fence, Neale intentionally ‘stranded’ himself on an uninhabited coral atoll in Suwarrow, Cook Islands. He lived there, on and off for sixteen years.

The idea of living on the deserted Anchorage Island was seeded by an American travel writer, Robert Frisbie whom Neal had met while bouncing around the South Pacific. Frisbie had written extensively about Polynesia and the South Pacific. After years of living in Tahiti and then losing his wife, he and his five children fulfilled his lifelong dream by calling the tiny Anchorage home.

the island

Anchorage Island in the Suwarrows today. Screen grab from the video compilation on the life of Tom Neale. Video by Hajnács Tamás

The family spent a year on the island and their story of surviving a typhoon by lashing themselves to tamanu trees that bend, rather than break, became serialized in The Atlantic Monthly as The Story of an Island: Marooned by Request in 1943 and later in the novel The Island of Desire.


Map of the Cook Islands. Image from World Atlas.

Read more»

(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


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.


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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 10.02.35 PM

Photo: Owen James Burke.

Read more»

Meet Raw Paua, My New Home, and My Inaugural Foray into #VanLife, Inspired by Cyrus Sutton


This regal red-striped rover of a land yacht is Raw Paua, my new cabin on wheels. For the next few months, along with a surfboard, a speargun and a wok, I’ll be calling her home. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I’ve more or less been a city kid throughout most of my “adult” life. I’ve never really owned a car, except for a month or two here and there. I’ve never even stayed in any one place long enough to buy a car, either. But in New Zealand, at least for the itinerant salt-junkie such as me, it is categorically imperative. -OJB


 Raw Paua’s first trip to the beach. The gratuities of #VanLife didn’t hesitate to make themselves known on our maiden voyage. . . . 10 minutes down the road. Photo: Owen James Burke.

A while back, my sagacious editor and advisor Chris Dixon, suggested a lifestyle change which I took with a grain of salt at first. His proposition? Move out of your house and into a van. But I’m a boat guy, I thought to myself, and wasn’t there a Saturday Night Live skit about this, with Chris Farley and David Spade? Could this have been his eloquent way of handing me my pink slip?

Some weeks later, Dixon put me in touch with professional surfer, filmmaker, and #VanLife guru Cyrus Sutton. In 2005, Cyrus bought a Ford Econoline, heavily customized it and hit the road. 10 years blew by, and this summer he was still occupying it full time when he moved into his dream van, a Mercedes Sprinter. Chatting with him about his van life over Skype from his Econoline, VanHalen, the idea took deeper root, and my wheels started churning. Maybe I could ditch the boat for a while and take to the road. Still, I was scratching my head at the idea of myself living in a van. Is this me?

Read more»

An Enraged Swordfish Just Speared and Killed a Spearfisherman in Hawaii


The swordfish measured six feet (including the bill) and weighed 40 pounds. Photo: Reuters.

47 year old Captain Randy Llanes was in Honokohau Harbor when he came across a juvenile swordfish cruising the shallows, an unusual sight.

Llanes jumped in with his speargun and stuck the fish, but upon receiving the blow, the fish lashed out and reciprocated, planting its own spear, or bill, into Llanes chest.

Read more»

The Definitive Guide: The Wirecutter’s Best Summer Gear for Sand, Surf, and Sun. From the Crew of The Scuttlefish.


Photo: Quinn Dixon.

A few months ago, I started working with Wirecutter and Scuttlefish founder Brian Lam – and a slew of talented editors and waterpeople – on an update to last year’s Wirecutter Summer Gear Guide.


Photo: Quinn Dixon.

After a serious expenditure of editorial energy – somewhere around 200 combined hours (at least), we’re proud to unveil the work of authors Jaimal Yogis and Mark Lukach, filmmaker Sachi Cunningham, former Outside online editor Joe Spring, fisherman and Scuttlefish writer Owen Burke, surf Divas Nicole Grodesky, Kate Barattini and underwater photographer Abi Mullens. What follows an editorially unbiased and journalistically pursued summertime gear guide that is frankly, like nothing I’ve ever worked on, and nothing I’ve ever seen.

Read more»

How “The Story of Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary” in Jamaica Was Told

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.04.28 AM

Screenshot from “The Story of Oracabessa” by Project Moana.

They sailed in slow like the tide one evening. Sailboats often take shelter in Oracabessa Bay’s artificial harbour, which was engineered by the government of Jamaica as part of a project to expand the then thriving banana port. That port expansion was later abandoned as other ports became more important points of export. While the reclaimed land was purchased by Chris Blackwell and is now part of Goldeneye, a heaven-on-earth type resort where many of the world’s wealthiest and most famous escape to paradise, the harbour remains public thoroughfare and is one of the few places on Jamaica’s north coast where one can drop anchor without mooring fees.

The crew paddled to shore in a tiny dinghy, landing at Oracabessa Fishing Beach, also called ‘The Bond Beach.” Its name is a reference to a particular chapter of the town’s rich history, in which a man named Fleming, sitting around a desk in his seaside cottage, dreamed up a hero by the name of James Bond. Such subtle references as the name on a sign are the only tangible links to this fascinating fact. It creates mystique that can be explored within the collective memory of the community by those who take the time for conversation. The stories to be found are like hidden gems; which are always better hidden.

Read more»

Wish You Were Here: Fresh Abalone and Sea Urchin. Lunch on the Beach in New Zealand.

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand, living in a van (or soon to be) 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

DSC_0882 (1)

Fresh abalone, or “paua” with soy sauce, chillies, garlic and ginger. Photo: Owen James Burke.

Every so often, lunch needs to be served in a shell atop a piece of salt-caked driftwood on the beach, gulls squawking and waves crashing.


Sea urchin, or “kina.” Photo: Owen James Burke.

Read more»

Across the Strait from Where I Was Spearfishing Last Week, A White Shark Opens Up On a Discovery Channel Film Crew

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 9.34.49 AM

Somewhere off Steward Island, New Zealand, Discovery Channel camera crew find themselves in exactly the compromising position one wants to be in when a 3-meter white shark has a go at their 2.5-meter boat. Meanwhile, completely unaware of this drama, I was swimming nearby with dead fish strapped to my waist. Screenshot from “Little Bitty Boats and Big Sharks Don’t Mix”.

Recently on Foveaux Strait off Stewart Island, New Zealand, right across from where I was spearfishing in Bluff, an imbecilic film crew decided to seek out white sharks from a dinghy that could just as easily be mistaken for a portable bathtub. How do we suppose they attracted the suspected 20-foot shark? A big hunk of bleeding meat, as always, only this time hanging within feet of what surely appears to be an inflatable rubber raft.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 8.12.48 AM

Screenshot from “Little Bitty Boats and Big Sharks Don’t Mix”.

And get this: these guys were hoping that the 20-foot shark would lead them to the nocturnal feeding grounds of a supposedly larger “mega shark,” which of course, like the fabled subjects of many a Discovery Channel docudrama, has eluded mankind to date.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 8.10.44 AM

Screenshot from “Little Bitty Boats and Big Sharks Don’t Mix”.

You don’t have to have seen or read “Jaws or any fake Discovery documentary to know this wasn’t a good idea. Just listen to the voice of one of Discovery’s film crew in the video below. For this show, Discovery won’t have to trade science-free melodrama for attention. Still, never underestimate Discovery’s ability to botch or contort a good story. We still have a few months till Shark Week yet.

Now about that spearfishing I was just referring to.


Somewhere between those two islands on the not-so-far-off horizon, a pair of Discovery Channel dopes were getting the thrill of their lives. Photo courtesy of Owen James Burke.

Read more»