The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here: On a Boat Somewhere in the Andaman Sea, On the Way to Meet the Andaman Sea Gypsies

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

Several months ago, I visited the Burmese and Thai coasts of the Andaman Sea hoping to meet a nationless seafaring people of Austronesian ethnicity known as the Moken or Selung. I wanted to find out how they survive the monsoon months, when pelting rain and violent gales sweep across the Andaman Sea almost daily with little warning and no mercy. This would become one of those days.

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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

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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.

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Wish You Were Here: Cook Strait, New Zealand

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.

After a good south swell, the waters around Cloudy Bay turn, well, just that. But it’s not the mucky brown silt you find on the Hudson River in New York after a great deluge, but an aqua-blue/green reflected by New Zealand’s nephrite jade, or pounamu as it’s known in the Māori language.

Pretty as it was, this haze kept me from diving, but then my cooler’s not looking to bad these days, and I did find a place to park up for the night with a tidy little wave conveniently breaking around the corner and no takers. Oh, woe is me. . . .

OJB

Wish You Were Here: Endless Rights on Frozen Nights, New Zealand

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

This quiet little cove lights up but a few times every winter, but when it does–provided the sandbar is well-situated–it produces what I won’t hesitate to call a world-class wave, which is why I wouldn’t dare say where it is. That, and despite its size, it can be a deceptively critical wave. A conveyor-belt ebb tide running along the rocks to the right is what holds its 100 yard long perfection; it’s not the swells that threaten to swamp you–they’re generally no bigger than head-high–but the fearsome outgoing tide.

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You can never really see how the surf’s breaking from the top of the hill, but when the bay is this cloudy, it’s a safe bet that you won’t be going spearfishing. Photo: Owen James Burke.

After careering over several icy passes on dirt roads, it didn’t even cross my mind to take the time to watch for rips and unseemly rocks lying under the takeoff zone. I’d gone spearfishing here more times than I could count. Arrogantly, I told myself I knew this bay well enough to paddle out effectively blind–I’d never seen in producing surf.

A more astute human being–and any seasoned surfer–might have taken the twenty minutes to learn this seascape, but when surfing and traveling alone, the voice of reason is wont to escape us.

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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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Wish You Were Here: Naked and Alone in a Japanese Bathhouse on a Rock in the Middle of the South Pacific

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

Over half a mile above the sea, silky blue waters trickle up from Earth’s crust, filling and frothing a handful of small rock pools beside a rolling mountain stream on this far flung rock, somewhere in the South Pacific.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Wish You Were Here: Wandering Through a Taiwanese Fish Market

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See how reflective and translucent these eyes look? Fish don’t get any fresher. Another way to tell is the sheen on the skin and scales, which lets you know that their protective coats are still intact. I’ll always favor catching my own, but when I absolutely have to buy fish, this is what I look for. Photo: Owen James Burke.

Weaving through the hawker stands of a Taiwanese fish market, you’re thoroughly and consistently astonished by the freshness and diversity within their ice chests, each and every morning. What’s more–I took this photograph nearly 30 miles inland in Zhongli, Taoyuan County. These fish, I was told, are caught at night and delivered each morning before the sun came up so that the hawkers–artists at heart, no doubt–can arrange their sleeted canvases before patrons arrive.

–OJB

Wish You Were Here: Dropping In at Piha, New Zealand

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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This was one of the smaller, more makable sets of the day. Photo: Owen James Burke.

A brutish, section-y left-hand wall of water comes careening in around this rock mound from the Tasman Sea on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, somehow, seemingly, gaining momentum while tearing its way through rock and sand.

This wave at Piha Beach, outside of Auckland is known–by some, at least–as the nation’s deadliest wave, to which a quick Google query is testament enough. I stayed on shore for this swell–I’ll maintain my excuse that I didn’t have a board at the time–but must admit I felt a little humbled when watching two young boys who couldn’t have been much older than seven or eight paddle out, alone.

OJB