Last year my brothers and I became the first people to complete the 8km point-to-point swim across the Moskstraumen (world’s largest maelstrom), starting at the pointed island of Mosken and ending at Vaeroy. This was the culmination of years spent training, acclimatising to the cold conditions and chugging up and down lakes, lidos, rivers and coastal waters. On top of the physical training, we also had to prepare ourselves mentally, which transpired to be a process of packaging each fear using cold, hard logic. Here’s a list of the five top dangers that haunted my preparation:
Orcas have been lumped with the unfortunate title of being the killer whale. However, there are no recorded incidents in which a human has ever been killed by an orca in the wild. The only known attacks involve orcas that have been bred in captivity, under conditions of extreme stress. Even though we kept this in mind, the thought of sharing the water with the some six-hundred orcas that roam the Lofoten waters was unsettling to say the least.
4. Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
In addition to the big, black and white variety of worrying wildlife, we also had to factor in the likely appearance of a lion’s mane jellyfish. These warbling suckers clamp their tentacles around unsuspecting swimmers and offer a nasty sting. During the swim, we passed over huge blooms of these jellyfish, peering down at their reddish insides and long tentacles, which, when the jellyfish was upturned, would snake up towards us like shiny tendrils.
3. Strong Currents
Currents are one of the more obvious dangers when it comes to swimming across a maelstrom. Generally speaking, the idea of being sucked down into a spiralling vortex is undoubtedly an irrational fear. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop me from feeling a pang of dread when, in the run-up to the swim, I was stirring my coffee at work and watching the ominous, brown fluid as it swirled around my spoon.
This was a genuine concern – the cold water in the Arctic Circle can be very troubling for an endurance swimmer attempting to swim there. The chief concern is the prospect of hypothermia, which can be a sneaky affliction that first fogs the brain and causes you to slur your words. Hypothermia is life-threatening so we were very careful to stop every half hour or so, at which point our support team would ask us several questions to ensure our brains were still ticking correctly.
Fatigue was probably my greatest fear, owing to the fact I’m not the fittest of endurance swimmers. That being said, being slightly unfit means I have a warm layer of blubber that protects me from the cold, but it doesn’t help much with the potential fear of growing tired and no longer being able to swim. During the Moskstraumen swim, I was most haunted by the idea that I just wouldn’t have it in me to keep swimming.
Little Brother JACK (25) is the youngest of the Hudson brothers. He is an author represented by London literary agency Curtis Brown, having written a book about the Wild Swimming Brothers, which is scheduled to be published soon.
Jack also graduated from Northumbria Uni' with a degree in English Lit..
WEAKNESS: Anything edible.
STRENGTH: Paddle-sized hands.
FAVOURITE SWIM SPOT: Manta Point, Bali.
LIFE DREAM: Living on a desert island, surrounded by monkeys.