Why swim the largest whirlpool in the world?
Why swim the largest whirlpool in the world?

Date: Wednesday 31st August 2016

Photo; Beth Harrison

In late august the Hudson Brothers became the first people ever to swim across the first and second largest whirlpools in the world, The Moskstraumen and the Saltstraumen in the Norwegian Arctic Circle.

Robbie (29) along with his two brothers Calum (26) and Jack (24), travelled to Bodo and Reine with WWF Norway with a plan to swim in these waters. Not just any swim but a swim to highlight the conservation of the Lofoten Islands and the very real threat as a site for potential oil drilling. 

Robbie tells us about their adventure

The Saltstraumen

This was a 175m sprint of a swim across an incredibly rapid stretch of water. We journeyed to the whirlpool beforehand with our guide, Knut Westvig of Stella Polaris, to witness it in full flow, and it didn’t disappoint. The eddies and currents rose and fell like gigantic slabs of water, and huge smaller whirlpools the size of our boat would appear from nowhere before disappearing again in a matter of seconds. Following Knut’s advice, we chose the time between the tides and made the crossing with him accompanying us in his boat. The cold arctic water was clear and pure. We gazed into the distance below us as we swam, the smaller funnels of whirlpools were visible as they snaked down into the depths. 

We had to navigate the currents and at one point we stopped completely dead still in the water, despite swimming with all our strength and power. Shouts from the boats corrected our route into quieter waters and we successfully completed the crossing! There was no time to celebrate as we reached the far shore, as our support team was wildly gesticulating for us to dive back in and swim back to the boat. 30 seconds after we heaved ourselves out, the torrents rose up again as strong as before. 

The Moskstraumen

This is an 8km sea swim across the largest maelstrom in the world. After meeting our guide Theresa from Aqua Lofoten, we planned a route based on how we hoped the currents could work in our favour, but this was guesswork at best, as no-one had ever attempted this swim beforehand. There was a sperm whale jaw bone lying on the grass by her house, a souvenir from a carcass that had been found a few years earlier washed up on the shore near the Moskstraumen.

Starting from an island, we swam through rock formations that rose out of the icy waters, and aimed for the aptly titled ‘Helle’ on the mainland. As we slipped into the dark water to begin, we could see sea eagles circling overhead. There had also been Orca sightings a few days beforehand, our support team keep a vigilant lookout from the boat. The main worries here were the currents, the cold water and the jellyfish. We were blessed by the Norse Gods, who allowed us safe passage. Towards the end of the swim, strong currents brought water so cold you felt it inside your bones, but we fought through to finish the 8km distance in 2 hours 31 minutes. Our Alpkit Lotic wetsuits did a great job at insulating us against the temperature.

Photo; Erlend Bodo

Why swim through a Whirlpool?

Middle brother Calum dreamt up and researched both swims before managing to convince Jack and I that they were a good idea. This is our usual dynamic, and we joke around about it but it is truly an unforgettable experience to swim with my brothers on either side of me whilst crossing through waters that have never been swum before by any other human.

At the end of the trip, after spending a few days exploring the mountains around the Lofoten Islands, catching cod and mackerel for our dinners (well Luke caught them, the rest of us tried) and enjoying a whisky or two, we stood on the back of the ferry and looked back across at the Moskstraumen, it was amazing to think about how outdoor swimming can take you to some of the most beautiful places in the world, and experience them in a completely unique way.

All of this would not have been possible without our friends / camera crew / support team: Beth Harrison, Luke Palmer, Dave Renton and James Silson. Some of whom ever jumped into the whirlpools to film us from underwater as we swam!

Photo; Erlend Bodo

See and hear more from Robbie, Calum and Jack

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