N I N E
In Cold Blood:
The Tale of the Icefish
In all things of nature there is something
of the marvelous.
It was a long way just to go fishing.
The us-foot converted wooden sealing boat Norveg/a put to sea out of
Sandcford Harbor, Norway on September 14,1927. Its primary destination was
perhaps the most remote piece of land on the planet. Tiny Bouvet Island, a
speck in the vast Southern Ocean, lay more than six thousand miles from
Norway, sixteen hundred
miles from the tip of Africa, and more than three
thousand miles from South America.
In the mid-1920S, commercial
whaling was booming. The Norwegian
of factory ships allowed greater ...view middle of the document...
whal ing fleet.
The Norregta thus had a three-pronged mission - commercial, political,
Norvegta made its \yay south, the sea temperature dropped quickly and very
and scientific. It was outfitted and financed by a leading whaling businessman,
soon another hazard - icebergs - appeared. On November 30 the crew got
a first glimpse of Bouvet Island, but a snowstorm prevented the crew from
largely for research. Thc young zoologist aboard, Ditlef
Rustad, was to carry out investigations of marine life, paying close attention to
rowing ashore. Finally, on December
whale populations (Figure
erect a pole bearing the Norwegian flag (Figure 9.3)· The first mission had
it was possible to land a party and to
where it was prepared for the more treacherous leg of the voyage to Bouvet.
Surveying of the waters around the island was constantly interrupted by
The ship was equipped with a coal-fired steam cngine, but could do just seven
storms, rough seas, and hazards to navigation. On some occasions it was very
knots at bcst on a calm sea. The "Roaring Forties" and the "Furious Fifties,"
difficult for the shore boats just 10 return to the mother ship. On December 3,
the names sailors had given to the wind- and storm-battered latitudes that lay
during a storm, the Norvegta struck a rock off thc coast of the island, which
further south, were anything but calm. The ship needed to take on all the coal
tore off some of her icc protection, damaged the keel, and opened a leak.
After two months at sea, the Norveg/a reached Cape Town, South Africa
Despite the hazards, the ship spent about a month around Bouvet. Rustad
it could in order to face the uncertain weather and to maximize its range as it
spent as much time as he could trawling for plankton and fish with a net. On
explored BoU\ et and its environs,
the day after Christmas. at a depth of about one hundred feet, he caught some
Sixty tons of coal were placed in sacks on deck, which soon created probthe rolling in
unusual looking fish he ca11 "crocodilc-fish'' on account of their large. procd
large waves, When water poured onto the ship's deck in rough seas, the
truding jms full of teeth. About twenty inches long, they had large pectoral
lems. The sacks made the ship top-heavy and exacerbated
IN COLD BLOOD
THE fALE Of THE
and tail fins, but were very pale, almosttransparCIll. When he sliced one open,
Rustad immediately noted their most peculiar feature of all - their blood was
colorless. He took some photographs but did not keep the fish.
The leak in the Norveg/a grew to the point where hand pumps had to be
used to keep her afloat. As the pack ice increased, and the coal supply
decreased, the decision was made to head to South Georgia Island for repairs.