Crossing The Saltstraumen  | Photo:  Beth Harrison

MAELSTROM CROSSING, 2016

SALTSTRAUMEN

 
The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and life-giving. It is an immense desert place where man is never lonely, for he senses the weaving of creation on every hand... For the sea is itself nothing but love and emotion. It is the Living Infinite... Nature manifests herself in it, with her three kingdoms: mineral, vegetable, and animal. The ocean is the vast reservoir of Nature.
— Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
 
 

AFTER THEY Swam the Eden the brothers split up and went back to their respective cities. Robbie left for Berlin to work on his new exhibition. Calum returned to the lidos of London and a new role at Eventbrite. And Jack went back to Newcastle and began to write about the Eden swim.

A few months passed before the brothers felt the lure of the world map again...

This time they scanned the globe and pored over charts and maps and picked out unexplored waters. They wanted to do something on a bigger scale. It had to be something that scared them. Something that pushed them and tested their bond. Keeping all this in mind Calum dreamed-up the Into the Maelstrom expedition, in partnership with WWF-Norge.

In a short space of time it was suddenly agreed. They were heading up into the Arctic Circle - to Norway. 

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Into the Maelstrom became a world first attempt to swim across the world’s biggest and most powerful maelstroms: the Moskstraumen and Saltstraumen. Swirling violently off the Norwegian coast, above the spear tip of the Lofoten Islands, these cauldrons of turbulent water possess the strongest and fastest tidal currents in ocean. Made famous by Edgar Allan Poe's A Descent into the Maelstrom and Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (when Captain Nemo's submarine, the Nebuchadnezzar, disappears under the waves) they are truly the stuff of literary legend.

 
 

No one had ever attempted these swims before. It meant the brothers were bound for unknown waters and untested currents. They would also have to contend with the icy water of the Arctic Circle, as well as over 600 orcas rumoured to be roaming the region. Not to mention the infamous lion’s mane jellyfish, capable of growing bigger than a human. 

 
 

The first swim was across the Saltstraumen. It would be a frantic sprint across a 0.25km tidal split with the world's fastest currents. The submerged seamounts funnel 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 25mph. 

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The brothers completed this swim in a frenetic 10-minute window. They dodged red jellyfish and fought vagaries of bubbling pressure that jolted them onto disorientated courses. But they made it to the other side under the supervision of their loyal team. And they became the first people to swim across the most powerful maelstrom in the world.

As it turned out the margin between success and failure had been less than one minute. The current suddenly turned a moment after they made it safely into the boat. It was an experience none of them would ever forget. But there was no way the boys could have made it without their companions and crew: Luke, Beth, James, Dave and ship captain Knut Westvig.

Watch the video: Into The Maelstrom, Part One

 
 
 
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MAELSTROM CROSSING, 2016

MOSKSTRAUMEN

 

The second and final swim of the Into The Maelstrom expedition took the brothers across the mighty Moskstraumen. This was an 8km point-to-point crossing between the islands of Vaeroy and Mosken. On a bad day, the central whorl of this whirlpool can span a diameter of around 40–50 meters (130–160 ft) and fierce tides bring the northerly Norwegian Sea currents into a storm-induced flow to create currents of up to 12 mph.

 
 
 
 
 

The brothers crossed the Moskstraumen in 2.31 hours. They became the first people to make that 8km crossing and landed safely in the dry fingers of the Lofoten Islands. Granted the Norse weather gods had been kind to them and despite the odd strong current they were blessed with Arctic waters that were glassy smooth.

That being said, the brothers did have to quell the dread of an orca sighting - several had been seen in the maelstrom six days earlier. They also had to dodge warbling blooms of lion’s mane jellyfish and survive the numbing 9°C water. 

The awe-inspiring beauty of the Lofoten Islands made it all bearable, as well as the encouragement of a motley support team: Luke, Dave, Sils and Beth, as well as Knut Westvig of Stella Polaris and Therese and Lars of Aqua Lofoten Coast Adventure AS