Luke joined the brothers when they travelled to Norway for their Into The Maelstrom expedition. As a consultant, it was his job to gain insight from locals and to also help coordinate the swims, whilst also keeping the brothers safe. He is a vital asset to the team and a good friend of all three brothers, having grown up with them in the little Cumbrian village of Langwathby. Some say he has a kind of Louis Theroux ability to navigate chaos with charm and disarming humour. Perhaps his finest moment occurred when, whilst travelling through India with the Hudson brothers, he fended off a charging cow with a deft swipe of a single hand.
Dave is a tech-savvy Scot and Jack's kindred uni' goof. He currently works as a runner for Passion Pictures. Did you see the recent stop-motion Sainsbury's advert with James Corden? Well, he was partly responible for creating it. Standing at around six-foot-five, this veritable Ent is an invaluable member of the team, acting as second-camera, graphic designer and editor. Armed with all manner of bizarre tripods, Dave is an adventurous fella, willing to find those hard to reach vantage points for more obscure shots. You can always count on him having a great new documentary you haven't seen or a strange new gadget at his disposal.
Beth, Jack's girlfriend, is a media production prodigy who's worked on a range of big projects in the past, including This Is England '90. She currently works as a writing and office assistant at Rough Cut TV. During the expeditions, she operates the first camera and specialises in candid, close-up shots. While the boys run-around trying to look epic, Beth provides a calming, grounded influence, never failing to take the edge off the strong cocktail of brawling egos. A qualified open water diver, Beth is no stranger to adventure and she also helps to keep the brothers' mum sane, always remembering to keep her updated as the swims unfold.
James, British Army captain and Captain Practical, is an avid expedition consultant and drone operator. He singlehandedly steers his drone in stormy conditions and offers logical advice when logic is lacking. Ever a source of optimism and enthusiasm, James was born for adventure, whether that's travelling the world with the British Forces or with the Hudson brothers. What he lacks in fashionable swimwear he certainly makes up for with a purposeful can-do attitude.
Rob is the strong masthead of the group and the first culprit if there's any empty whiskey bottles lying around. He swims like an unstoppable turtle, a little slower than the other two, but without ever showing any signs of stopping. Swimming has given him great inspiration for his artwork, as well as offering him a chance to spend time with his two younger brothers in far-flung places. Usually he cuts a calm figure, despite his proclivity for listening to hardcore Nordic black metal.
Calum dreamed-up the Wild Swimming Brothers and roped his siblings into joining him on his mad run of family holidays/adventurous swims. By day he's a sales manager, by... other days, he's an intrepid expedition leader, searching the globe for interesting challenges in exotic locations. He is also something of a marketing and organisational guru, with the bold charisma needed to lead something as seemingly insane as swimming maelstroms, whilst also causing his mum to have kittens.
Jack is a young author and last member of the Hudson trio, having been persuaded to join his brothers - not because he thought it was a good idea, but rather because he couldn't stomach the idea of missing out. Jack brings a warm layer of blubber to the water and swims with a slow, lazy stroke. He has been responsible for a lot of the content that comes from these boys and will also be releasing a book soon about their adventures together.
The brothers set off from the stormy marina of Craobh Haven (with their sea captain Duncan) just after midday and returned under clearing skies a few hours later, having swum the Corryvreckan. In the end they made it across with a decent time of twenty-two minutes and, aside from a few cut feet and prevailing exhaustion, they were all unscathed. What they did bring back with them, though, was an overwhelming sense of achievement and a taster for how it would later feel to Swim the Eden.
Having finished this swim, the brothers realised that they partly owed their success to their mum. Potentially she could've watched her three children being sucked into a whirlpool and yet she still remained calm and provided support at every turn. The brothers also needed to thank their sea captain Duncan for getting them there and using his veteran knowledge to guide them through the crossing. Having a mast to grab hold of, in the form of those folk who showed their support, made all the difference. Even their spaniel, Marlin, played a small part, although she might need some time to work on her sea legs.
Looking back, the boys still say that the Corryvreckan was one of the hardest swims they've attempted. Jack admitted that he was close to bowing out several times, thrown into disarray by the bizarre currents, the onslaught of salty waves and the short window you have to make it through the maelstrom, from the island of Jura to the island of Scarba.
Overall, there's less than one hundred people who've actually made this crossing, which makes it pretty special.
Almost a year in the making, the 9-day/90-mile Swim the Eden expedition was a chance for the brothers to return to their roots and revisit the swimming spots they loved so much as kids. It was also, admittedly, an opportunity for them to swap the humdrum clockwork of their respective cities (Newcastle, London, Berlin) for the easy rhythms of the natural world. The fact that, in escaping the grind, they could simultaneously raise money for the Swimming Trust was just the icing on the cake - they had to go through with it!
In hindsight, the Eden swim turned out to be immensely fun and Jack described a great loss the morning after they finished, when he woke up to the realisation that he wouldn't be seeing his brothers or their support team. It took them 9-days to make it from the peaty bogs and gorges of Black Fell Moss, down the steep dale of Mallerstang, through the green Vale of Eden, across the Eden Valley to the the squelching tidal flats of England’s eastern coast, where the Eden joins the River Esk and enters the Solway Firth.
The whole swim was filmed by the human Swiss Army knife, James Silson. He kayaked along beside the brothers, occasionally supported by Jack's good mates David Renton and Sandy Kerridge, strapped with drones, GoPros and all manner of clunking film paraphernalia. Here's another example of the kind of folk who suddenly surprise you with their generosity, whilst also going the extra distance to get you through tough times.
There are some others the brothers would like to acknowledge at this point, who were essential to the success of the Eden swim. Unfortunately they couldn’t list all of their supporters by name, meaning everyone who donated money and cheered them on. With this in mind, they would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for all of your contributions, big and small – it makes all the difference...
The River Eden Angling Association and its members
Stephen Allison of Aisgill Farm
The Crown and Thistle Inn
Danny, Liz and Lee Hayward
John and Linda Key
Laura Del Rio of The Queen’s Pub
Shaun and Gill Silson
Scott and Lissie Stevens
The Walsh Brothers
Follow this link to read more about the Swim The Eden expedition.
After the Swim the Eden expedition the brothers kept getting asked what they had planned for their next adventure. Robbie had returned to his Berlin gallery, in preparation for his new exhibition, Calum returned to the Lidos of London and a new role at Eventbrite, while Jack was holed up in his study in Newcastle, ready to put pen to paper for a short story. However, after a few months apart, the brothers could feel the lure of the world map. Soon they started to think seriously about what their next challenge could be.
Excited, the brothers started spinning the globe, pouring over charts, maps and frantically researching possible swims. They wanted to do something on a bigger, global scale - something that slightly terrified them, in order to really push themselves and inspire others to get outside and embark on their own challenges. With that in mind Calum dreamed-up the Into the Maelstrom expedition, on behalf of WWF-Norge, and in a short space of time it was suddenly agreed that they were all heading to Norway.
Into the Maelstrom became a world first attempt to swim across the two biggest and most powerful whirlpools in the world: the mighty Moskstraumen and Saltstraumen in Norway. Swirling violently off the Norwegian coast, above the Arctic Circle, on the edge of the Lofoten Islands, these two vast whirlpools possess the strongest and fastest tidal currents in the world. Made famous by Edgar Allan Poe's A Descent into the Maelstrom. Featured in the climax of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, when Captain Nemo's submarine, the Nebuchadnezzar, is sucked under the waves and also feared by Captain Ahab in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. These maelstroms are truly the stuff of literary legend.
No one had ever attempted either of these swims before, which meant the brothers were truly heading into uncharted waters. They knew early on that this would be their greatest challenge yet and the biggest test of their brotherhood. Currents aside, they would also have to contend with the freezing cold water of the Arctic Circle, as well as over 600 orcas rumoured to be roaming the region and the infamous lions mane jellyfish, capable of growing bigger than a human. The very real prospect of a large black shape appearing beneath them was frightening to say the least, although it was important to remember that there are hitherto zero reported orca attacks on humans in the wild.
Of course, the brothers already had a little whirlpool swimming experience, having swum the Corryvreckan (third largest whirlpool in the world) in July 2015. They'd also swum the full ninety-mile length of the River Eden for their Swim the Eden expedition that same year. They'd completed the Corryvreckan swim in twenty-two minutes. Fewer than one-hundred people have ever completed this swim (more people have been into space) and it is the only whirlpool that has ever been swum. In some ways they were prepared, in others they had absolutely no idea what to expect.
The Saltstraumen swim was a rapid sprint across a 0.25km tidal split with the worlds fastest whirlpool funnelling up to 400,000,000 cubic metres of swirling seawater through a 3km long and 250-metre wide strait every six hours. Within this frantic wash of currents the water can reach speeds of up to 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph).
The brothers completed this swim in a frenetic 10-minute window, dodging ominous red jellyfish and contending with vagaries of bubbling pressure that jolted them onto meandering courses. Nevertheless, they made it to the other side, under the supervision of their loyal team. In doing so, they became the first people to swim across the most powerful maelstrom in the world. As it turned out the margin between success and dreadful failure had been less than one minute, with the current suddenly turning a moment after they made it safely into the boat. Swimming through that mysterious vortex was an experience none of them would ever forget. There was no way they could have made it without their companions and crew: Luke, Beth, James, Dave and ship captain Knut Westvig.
The brothers would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported them from home. It means everything to them that people still enjoy their adventures and take the time to let them know that they're swimming (both literally and figuratively) with them.
The second and final swim took the brothers across the merciless Mosktraumen. It was an 8km point-to-point crossing between the islands of Vaeroy and Mosken. Along the way, the brothers had to overcome the largest whirlpool in the world, with a central whorl sometimes spanning a diameter of some 40–50 meters (130–160 ft) and fierce tides that combine the northerly Norwegian Sea currents and storm-induced flow, resulting in currents of up to 10.7 knots (20 km/h, 12 mph).
It brings the Wild Swimming Brothers a great sense of pride to say, finally, that they made it across the Moskstraumen in 2.31 hours and became the first people to have made that unforgivable 8km crossing. Together they survived and prospered in the most massive maelstrom in the world. Granted, the Norse weather gods had been kind to them and despite the odd powerful current they were blessed with arctic waters that were glassy smooth - for the most part. However, the brothers did have to quell the ongoing fear of orcas, which had been seen in the maelstrom six days earlier, as well as dodging hordes of warbling lions mane jellyfish... not to mention the numbing, icy water of the Arctic Circle.
The brothers chose the pictures in this article because they felt that they convey the ethos behind their expedition. Collected together they represent the awe-inspiring beauty of Norway, which deserves resolute protection from oil drilling, and the value of teamwork, exemplified by their motley support team of Luke, Dave, Sils and Beth, as well as Knut Westvig of Stella Polaris and Therese and Lars of Aqua Lofoten Coast Adventure AS.
The brothers can't stress enough how important it was to have these individuals along for their mad expedition. Swimming alongside each other as brothers, in wild places, is something they've come to value greatly. It is, they've found, a way of immersing themselves in the natural world, whilst sharing something that they will remember forever.
They would also like to thank: WWF-Norge, Visit Norway, Visit Bodø, VISIT LOFOTEN, Visit Northern Norway, Bodø Nu, Torghatten Nord, Thon Hotel Nordlys, Alpkit, Chillswim, H2Open Magazine - Open Water Swimming, Dagsavisen, Dagbladet
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Wednesday, August 23rd
It was Calum, Serena (Calum's girlfriend), Beth (my girlfriend), Luke (our lead support) and myself at the start of our adventure. We escaped the late night bustle of London on the Caledonian Sleeper train, hurtling north in the comfortable confines of our cabins. We bumbled and wobbled down the corridors for a while, like hyper kids suddenly launched into a new environment. Then we eventually collapsed into comfy seats and spent the night drinking in the lounge cabin, our surroundings rattling gently as we crowded our table at intervals with small bottles and upturned cards.
Thursday, August 24th
After a deep sleep in our adjoining rooms we woke early the next morning and were soon greeted by a big, friendly Scot carrying a tray of coffee. Excited for our first glimpse of the Scottish hills, we whipped open the windows and sat propped against our pillows, sipping our coffee and
enjoying the sweeping views as we slowly woke up. It was the first time Beth had been this far up into Scotland and I couldn't wait to show her the world our grandma was from and the wild, sprawling Highlands we'd visited since we were little. Excited for our first glimpse of the Scottish hills, we whipped open the windows and sat propped against our pillows, sipping our coffee and enjoying the sweeping views as we slowly woke up. It was the first time Beth had been this far up into Scotland and I couldn't wait to show her the world our grandma was from and the wild, sprawling Highlands we'd visited since we were little.
Over the years I've learnt that nothing quite beats the Highlands when it comes to disconnecting and escaping the city. There's something about the vast open space, unique brawny wildlife and rugged hills that releases you from claustrophobic anxiety. The first glimpses we stole of the leaden lochs and heather-patched hills were framed by the little train windows. One by one the beautiful vistas came and went with increasing effect. Sometimes the train would slow, allowing us to peer into the gardens of isolated white houses. Then it would hurtle off again, plunging into dense forests, where seas of bracken poured between the tall trunks of scattered Scots pines.
So, by the time we reached Ullapool - having taken a taxi from the station at Inverness - we were ready to get out, stretch our legs and inhale the fresh, salty air. We headed straight down onto the pebbled beaches, found crabs under the rocks and skimmed stones over the kelp forests. Then we wandered to the harbour and Luke tested his new rod as we watched two seals prowling in the oily water around the fishing boats. In the evening we met up with a local wild swimmer, Norman, and went for a swim in the loch. We found a stretch of water away from the boats and ditched the wetsuits to acclimatise and discover just how cold it really was. In the icy, clear water I was immediately surprised by the size of the splayed lion's mane jellyfish - much bigger than any of the ones I'd seen in Norway. Also, there were scattered blooms that pulsated a few feet beneath the surface, warbling menacingly with thick wads of tentacles. And yet apart from those gelatinous stingers the water was lovely and I was stunned by the visibility - not to mention the abundance of fish, crabs, kelp and coral. The only thing we were missing was a seal! Norman told us how they came to inspect him when he was swimming. Apparently they were protecting their pups at this time of year, which made them a little more hostile, although they weren't known to give you anything worse than an inquisitive nudge.
Later, as the sun packed up its rays behind the hills, we ate fish and chips and chatted about the swim and how nice it was to be away from the city. Then we finished the night drinking cider and listening to live music in a harbour pub, hushed by a smooth, acoustic blend of Cat Stevens and Tracy Chapman.
Friday, August 25th
We spent the following day preparing a few things for our swim all the way down the 12.8km length of Loch Broom, from Ullapool to Clachan church, where both our grandma and great grandma are buried. Mostly we just had to work through the logistics and make sure we had all the supplies we needed, namely a bloated bag of energy-giving flapjack and brownies. I also had a lovely chat with Fiona Stalker on BBC Radio Scotland (35-mins in) and told her stories of grandma's life on the lochside and how she became known as the Wild Lady of Loch Broom. That afternoon the rest of our happy clan arrived, including big brother Robbie, his girlfriend Valeriya, my old school and rugby mate Sandy, his girlfriend Millie, their stone-fetching black Labrador Bonnie, our mum (the Wild Swimming Mother), James Silson (our trusty Human Swiss Army Knife), Aunty Fiona, Uncle Mike, cousin Katie and another hardy local wild swimmer, Colin, who'd be crossing the loch with us. We celebrated as much as we could, ate together and watched the sunset at the beach before hitting the hay for an early night.
Saturday, August 26th
When it came to Saturday morning we were bleary-eyed and groggy but ready for our swim. We woke at 5 and took the kayaks down to a jetty close to Ullapool harbour. Millie then donned the wild cat costume we'd been given by our sponsors Wildcat Action and we took a few photos with Colin and Norman before heading out (on what would be an almost 5 hour swim in 13 degree water) through a crowd of anchored boats. Along the way we saw shoals of fish darting through the clear, greenish water, dodged and swerved down a narrow channel we've now renamed jellyfish alley and slowly crawled a seemingly endless, but mercifully sunlit, final mile, alongside the familiar bracken-swathed hills that overlook grandma's old white bungalow. The brackish 13-degree water was fairly punishing and, as the hours slid by, I became very thankful for the neoprene covering most of my body, including the webbed gloves Beth's mum had posted to our hotel at the last minute (thanks Sue!). Nevertheless, by the end of the swim my extremities seemed to have been disconnected from my body and my muscles were jelly.
However, we all made it!
Looking back, it was one of the greatest experiences we've had in the water! We were even joined at different times by several shy seals and porpoises (unfortunately they kept their distance). And all the while, with every stroke, we'd drawn closer to the free matriarch who'd inspired this mad adventure together as the Wild Swimming Brothers.
Finally, we were met on the boggy marshland below Clachan by a host of lochsiders, all of whom had known and loved grandma. They kindly revived us with coffee and sausage and bacon sandwiches, before we went up in a group to Clachan church and laid Katie's wreath, made of seaweed, heather and wildflowers, on grandma's grave, warmed by the knowledge that we'd done her proud.
We did this swim in memory of our Grandma Wild, but we also wanted to raise awareness about the plight of the Scottish Wildcat, which was why we partnered with Scottish Wildcat Action.
The history of this striped beauty describes a true survivor. Roughly 9000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, furry European wildcats crossed the ice and arrived on the rugged, drifting landmass that later became Britain. In the many years that followed, interbreeding with domestic cats, habitat destruction and persecution have all but wiped these wildcats out. Now their last refuge is in the forested Scottish hills, where they are known locally as the Tiger of the Highlands. Organisations like Scottish Wildcat Action are responding to the desperate need to promote and secure their protection. If you'd like to find out more about how you could support their current conservation plan and save this wonderful creature (just look at that photo >) you can visit the Wildcat Action website here.
Finally, we'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped, supported and swam with us:
Friends and Family of The Wild Swimming Brothers
Friends of our Grandma, Edith Wild
Our Honorary Wild Swimming Brothers: Colin and Norman
Norwest Sea Kayaks
The Caledonian Sleeper
The Royal Hotel, Ullapool
Luke Palmer (Lead Support)
James Silson (Drone)
Beth Harrison (Camera and Kayak Support)
Sandy Kerridge (Kayak Support)
Millie Dow (Kayak Support)
Serena Edgehill (Kayak Support)
Valerya Biller (Kayak Support)
Jonathan and his fantastic boat crew (Support Boat)
Words Jack Hudson
Photography Beth Harrison