Swimming the Kings Trough, mid-Atlantic

“Seventeen minutes that shook the earth”*

It wasn’t me that shook the earth, sadly not. It all happened 32 million years ago way back in the Paleogene era. A huge comet hurtling through space crashed through the atmosphere of our nascent planet, dived through the ocean and ploughed the vast furrow that is the Kings Trough out of the sea bed. Giant tsunamis washed across the the European and West African continents creating new land forms and possibly extinguishing species.

If you’re going to go for a swim, you may as well make it somewhere exciting.

Yup, that’s where it is…

From my journal – July 31st. 1988 42,00’N 21,30’W – Atlantic Ocean 300 miles NNE from the Azores Islands, 1600 miles from England, 300 miles NNE from the Azores Islands

‘The water was outstandingly warm and extremely blue. Oh what a sensation swimming out of sight of land! Diving off the prow into a swimming pool so limitless as to be frightening. 4,500 metres below us the seabed is murky and dotted with luminous creatures, fish with dangly proboscis, rock formations devoid of plant life and maybe even one of our empty corned beef cans.

Deep blue photo – unknown author

Imagine holding a bottle of ink up to the light and then focus on all the myriad shades from light blue to indigo black as the rays pass through. Those are the colours of the mid-Atlantic on a calm day, devoid of wind and flat as a sea rays belly. How many creatures lurk below I was wondering? I felt the need to test myself and prove my imagination wrong so taking a huge breath I struck down deep and swam right under the hull of ‘Roc’ its twin winged keel spooking me like the fins of some fantastic sea beast. Below me the light pierced ever darker in to the recesses of the water and my mind fought to repel the thought of a monstrous hungry shark spying me from below. I popped up the other side of the yacht short of breath and I have to admit I swam pretty quickly to grab the rope played out behind and haul myself in.

My imagination goes trippy – 1551 engraving of a sea monster

Later that day we wound in one of the two fishing lines trailing behind. This line had a breaking strain of eighty pounds, the steel trace and livid green plastic squid we hoped would tempt tunny or maybe a small shark. The three pounds of weight would take the line down at least fifty or even eighty metres deep in the calm. As we reeled in the line seemed curiously light and as the steel trace came up we saw that it had been sheered off just below the huge swivel. We looked at each other in shock, there was no other explanation than as if something had bitten through that steel as if it were a piece of cotton.’

August 2nd. ‘Spouts – huge spouts of gushing water – like steam blasting from an old train. The whales have arrived. Just before breakfast two sharks were spotted finishing off our beef stew and an hour later the first huge torpedo like shape of a whale slipped above the water water five hundred yards distant. So graceful for their size all that’s seen is a long inky black shape rising through the swells. Then another appeared, spouting much closer. Never too close they kept their distance on what I presume is their long voyage north. We must have crossed their migratory channel for as the minutes passed we saw a dozen more whales appear. Far out a couple of miles or so distant another huge school was spouting furiously, all we could see were plumes of water rising like geysers on the horizon. The family close to us followed us for a good five minutes, a moment of magic out in this lonely world. Rising simultaneously and puffing steam they dipped and rose playing with the water curious as to this big white creature sitting above the sea. And then in an instant they were gone. Diving deeper and turning north once more for their long voyage to the frozen north’.

For more Mid-Atlantic adventures here’s a previous post https://africaonthehorizon.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/sunrise-over-the-azores/

*Qouted from – A geomorphologic approach to the interpretation of the King’s Trough Complex, North-East Atlantic. Lars G. Franzén & Gustaf D. Nelhans.