It’s been touched upon in world news recently, big oil continuing to endanger the world’s last pristine environments. From Seattle ‘kayaktivists’ preventing oil drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea to Norway, where three brothers swam for an oil-free Lofoten. Combatting climate change worldwide is a sometimes thankless task, but it brings immense rewards too. Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson share with us why recalling their recent swim through the Saltstraumen Maelstrom.
You swam through ice-cold water across the world’s strongest tidal currents in the company of killer whales and large jellyfish, what is this bold project all about?
Yes, that about sums it up. Our ‘Into the Maelstrom’ Project was to swim across the Saltstraumen and Moskstraumen whirlpools in Norway above the Arctic Circle. The Moskstraumen is 8km wide, and no-one had ever attempted these swims before. We did this to raise awareness about the proposed future plans to drill for oil in The Lofoten Islands. This will have a significantly disastrous effect on the local ecosystems, environment and animals that call these islands home, and one of the largest cold water reefs in the world.
What were the biggest dangers and challenges you faced during the expedition?
The currents, the possibility of hyperthermia from the Arctic water, being stung by lionsmane jellyfish (Jack headbutted one during the Saltstraumen swim!) and Orcas.
What are the current issues that the world needs to be aware of and the message you are trying to get across?
We want to inspire people to reconnect with the natural world. Whether that is through walking, swimming, cycling, photography, sketching or anything else, rekindling an interest in the environment and getting out there has huge positive benefits for personal fitness, mental health and awareness of the natural world. This makes it easier to understand why sustainable practices are absolutely necessary and encourage people to make those positive changes in their own lives.
'Rekindling an interest in the environment and getting out there has huge positive benefits for personal fitness, mental health and awareness of the natural world.'
The project is clearly an extreme expedition that most wouldn’t even think about. What can ordinary people do to motivate themselves and others to engage more with nature?
Plan an adventure into the wild and invite your friends and family along. Try something that is slightly out of your comfort zone and just go for it. If you’ve always wanted to see Canada, or walk the west highland way in Scotland, or cycle through Patagonia, then start planning today!
Do you see adventure playing more of a part in environmental awareness? How?
Yes. Adventure on any scale allows people to reconnect with the natural world, which in turn enhances awareness. Whether it’s a short walk down a country lane behind your house, or a 3-month trek through the Himalayas, there’s no substitute for direct experience to stir up that sense of wonder and curiosity for the natural world that lies within us all.
How important are issues such as climate change, sustainability and the planet’s increasing population important for considering future expeditions, and is our relationship with nature and the environment in danger?
These issues are all incredibly important, because they will, and do, affect us all. I think the shift across many cultures towards an increasingly sedentary and indoor lifestyle is changing the way that humans experience the natural world. It’s difficult to quantify and process the effects of climate change without having any direct kind of relationship with nature, and we hope that our swimming expeditions can give people an inspirational nudge into trying their own, or getting back out into the wild and enjoying themselves.
'It’s difficult to quantify and process the effects of climate change without having any direct kind of relationship with nature, and we hope that our swimming expeditions can give people an inspirational nudge into trying their own.'
We’ve heard of tenuous sibling relationships in the past. How do you keep it all together, is teamwork your secret recipe?
Haha, I think the answer to that question would probably depend on which brother you asked! There is a competitive element between us I guess, but that really just helps us to complete the swims that we embark on. Each one of us would never be the first to give up! Swimming for 2.5 hours in the Arctic across the world largest whirlpool doesn’t work unless you work together.
What’s the next expedition for you and why?
Next, we will travel to New Zealand to swim across the crater lake of Mount Ruapehu, which is an active Volcano. We also want to swim to Barrier Island to raise awareness for the Kakapo.
For more information about the expedition and Calum, Robbie and Jack, visit the Wild Swimming Brothers website here.