Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Madagascar, the island at the end of the earth, was for me one of these places on the map that I thought; “I’ll go there some day”. When is another question! The adventurous part of me has this need to put an imaginary flag-pin on the world map stating that “I’ve been there”. How we ended up with Madagascar as our destination this time was due to a 4 year old article in the Getaway magazine. After numbers of beers and whisky’s and brainstorming, that article came up in conversation. The concept of staying on a boat in Madagascar was such an appealing thought that we could not rid ourselves of the daydreams… so the ticket was booked!

I knew nothing about Madagascar other than that animated children’s/parent’s movie that came out a while ago. We rented that movie, so that we where familiar with King Julian and his Lemur friends on the island. I still felt obliged to find out more before going there… so I found some old National Geographic (NG) magazines in a second hand bookstore…. and dug up some of my old Getaway and Go magazines with articles on the place.

Baobab trees have quite cool shapes. Madagascar has got 6 different species although it is known as a mainland Africa tree. Only one species grow on African mainland though. If I’m lucky I might even see a Chameleon and King Julian in one of those trees… it’s an obvious attraction and an excuse to go! Ylang Ylang trees are also quite special! It’s like they suddenly start growing downwards again at about chest height. Henk and I cover the fields of botany, biology, marine biology, social anthropology and lots of other useful things, and could confirm for the ladies that these plants were trimmed to not outgrow the small and petite Malagasy people (reaching chest height)… very much like in a Japanese garden with those tiny little trees that needs constant trimming.

The people in Madagascar are Malagasy, a mix of Africans, Arabs, Malaysians and Indonesians that arrived about 1500 years ago… dugout canoe’s that drifted off maybe? Serious drifting that… from either direction!! In my October 1967 and February ’87 issue of NG I found that the population have increased from 6-10 mill people and to 19,5 mill people as per July 2007. That’s quite an increase!! President M. Philibert Tsiranana explained in an interview (1967) that he is against any form of birth control, and he said: “I want every Malagasy to have at least 12 children”. So there is an explanation to everything… It’s like the introduction of rabbits in Australia, or the Kamtchatka Crabs in Russia, or American lobsters in Norway… and drifters stranded in Madagascar.

I’m diving at Four Brothers - four rocks that look almost misplaced and funny the way they come up from the abyss. It reminds me strongly about rock shapes and islands that I’ve seen in Thailand in the Phuket/Krabi area. My theory is that those rocks where shaped millions of years ago when we still had the Pangea super continent. If you puzzle together the continents today, I’m pretty damn sure that James Bond island will be the 5th brother or so…

Madagascar is a place where they find a lot of fossils, so I bought one of those ammonite things... It’s an obvious souvenir from the place. Madagascar has some animal species that you won’t find anywhere else in the world like Lemurs and some Chameleons. They also had some prehistoric species like the Aepyornis (Elephant Bird) that was a bigger version of the Ostrich. It seems to be a place for a lot of odd creatures, live ones and fossilized ones. But imagine the diversity of the marine life around Madagascar? I’ve already caught Cuta and Sailfish whilst fishing, and seen lots of the colorful fishies whilst diving… What about that Megladon, the prehistoric big brother of the white shark? They say much of the marine life is yet to be discovered, so who knows if the Megladon is really extinct?! If it’s lurking around down there somewhere, then I’m sure Madagascar is the place! Maybe in the deeper end though, so I silently agree with the girls to stay in the calm and shallow water around the little islands. Diving and snorkeling should be safe there. With the possibility of Megladons in the water, I decide to not push “Floater” too much…

Oh, I can put another flag-pin on the world map now... but I still don't feel I have DONE Madagascar properly... only a small part of the northern tip, so I have to come back!!

A beer with someone from history

If you could have a beer with someone from history, who would it be? Graham challenged me… so here goes!

Having a beer with any person existing before my own time would mean some kind of a time travel. I would therefore start at the beginning of time, with Adam and Eve. I would go to them, not the other way around… and there are lots of reasons for that. I would get to see The Garden of Eden, before it got corrupted… and maybe give them a word of advice that could change the world completely! A time travel in itself would also be awesome!!

First of all, I would tell them to stay away from that serpent (Satan)… and maybe even kill it! Satan would surely not give up and come back with some of his cunning… so I would definitely get rid of him once and for all! I would thereby hope that the serpent would not put ideas into Eve’s head… or anytime in the future!

Second I would tell them to stay away from that apple (God, testing his creations!) but that would still make it “forbidden fruit” and make it only more tempting… so maybe I would discretely steal it and eat it up out of their vision. Then I would dress them decent with some leafs, sit them down and have that beer… Carlsberg! We would talk about life in general… their lives. I would of course go along and give advice like a catholic priest and showing no sign of my corrupted future being that could rub off!!

I would do all of this in the hope that I could change the world that I myself live in and make it a better place for everybody. But would I really… By doing this I would kill, steal and introduce alcohol to Eden… all highly sinful stuff... so maybe I should abstain from that beer and that time travel after all?! By the time I made my way back the world would probably have gone under due to my early influence!!

As an alternative I would have some absinth with Nostrodamus. I would give him a book on the world history from his time up to my time… and let him point out his visions! But that would only mean focusing on all the shit that’s happened… so I would probably finish the bottle myself and leave him with the book!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rugby and Neanderthals

As the superior race on earth we have traced our background back to the more primitive humans, hominids and apes. We have found so many different species, representing different stages in evolution… and there might not even be a missing link any more?! From the species' evolved features, scientists can make up their minds about how smart these guys where amongst other things.

I read this article a while back about the Neanderthals. They where hunters and maybe not the smartest of the lot! According to findings, the Neanderthals cornered their prey and often had to go head on with the animals. You can imagine it being a warthog, a buck of some kind or something bigger fighting for it's life. Their killing technique was unrefined and often put them in great danger. They took a lot of hard knocks… and often to the head! When you take a serious hit apparently, you get a growth on your bones. That's your internal workshop's automatic service, but leaves you scarred for life (and way longer, on the bones at least)! The Neanderthals had a lot of these growths in the forehead especially…

I’m watching the rugby World Cup on TV now. For me as a Norwegian, rugby does not come around as a very intelligent game when you are first introduced to it… especially not when 15-20 overgrown men are putting their heads against each other in a scrum. I’ve got the hang of the game now, but that’s not the point… They go in with their head first in this game, and take quite a few knocks during a match…
I’m watching the features of these rugby guys… Muscular and big they are indeed! But it’s the eye brows… or rather the bone structure behind them that looks rather oversized as a general feature that draws my attention. Schalk Burger is on the screen (quite fitting name for a rugby player I must say), and the TV commentator is telling me that the players are developing growths in their foreheads from all the knocks (early match in the tournament). Probably not a very big growth, but a few extra millimeters like a bump. Those extra millimeters combined with all the constant bruises and swellings makes a quite distinct look! Big Ben from the Fantastic Four comes to my mind, but where the hell did I read about growths like this recently…??? Where did I see these features before…?! Then I realize, it’s those Neanderthal faces I posted earlier (http://stensbys.blogspot.com/2007/08/neanderthal-affair.html).

Let’s say our civilization goes under now (due to global warming or whatever)… then in another few thousand years, a new advanced civilization develops. They start excavating and finding old human remains and starting to reason what these people where like and how we lived. Be sure, they will find a rugby player… and then for all history we will be marked as backwards people who went head to head hunting for food. I’m not a famous guy, but quite happy in the belief that maybe some of my friends and/or family members think highly of me… only to have my bones displayed next to Schalk Burger’s and be labeled a Neanderthal… that sucks! I’ll choose cremation… better that way!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Gone fishing

I went on a week’s holiday lately, on a boat in Madagascar! An all in one package for me really. Diving, sleeping, fishing, relaxing, eating… It was my wife and I and another couple, and their 14 year old daughter (Floater).

Earlier this year I got a small taste of what deep sea fishing can be like, when I went to Mocambique with a friend and eager fisherman from Norway (Oyvind). The catch was properly documented on this blog (http://stensbys.blogspot.com/2007/04/fishing-in-mocambique.html), much to rub it in for my friend that went home empty handed. This time I must say that I was looking forward to do some fishing, catch a big one and maybe rub it in even more… and document it like with all the salt and chillies to make it utterly painful for Oyvind, hahaha. Well, that was just a thought that snuck into my mind in a flash of a second… no more!

Well on board the boat, we are presented with the rules and we quickly move on to the priorities for the week. We’re a bunch of landlubbers and beg the captain for some calm waters. That means south of the Nosy Be Island sheltered by lots of smaller sand banks and islands. That also means bad fishing he says… I’m thinking to myself that during a whole week… if I keep the lines out at all times… I’ve bought some fancy lures… but I need all the luck now.

Kailash, the teenager on board has got a bellyring with lots of glittery stuff. We decide that she can be our floater… and all the tackles can easily be hooked onto her bellyring with an easy on and off clips… so Kailash is officially renamed “Floater”!
I take a look at the chart, and figure that our calm waters vary only between 20-30m deep. What big pelagic fishes can you catch in shallow waters like that?? I don’t know, but decide that I have to rely on “The Secret” as well… the power of the mind. Whilst all the others are relaxing and minding their own stuff, I will have to meditate on the fishing and visualize for myself how I battle to get that huge monster of a fish onboard the boat… then the fish will be “heaven sent” back to me as answer to my prayers. In these waters and the captain’s optimistic tone, that might be my safest bet… so the whole fishing thing fades out of my mind…

I don’t know what happened to the the prophets of doom… For two days there where nothing… but then suddenly one day the reel was screaming wildly. The captain had to wake me up on deck… fish, fish!! The line was pulling and pulling… and I just had to accept that only when this thing stops pulling can I start pulling back… but as soon as I started it was suddenly gone… F**K!! But at least something was lurking down there…

Only a minute later it happens again, and this time I landed a nice Cuta that I estimate must have been about 5kg. In an hour or two I landed two more, the biggest one now about 7kg… a little bit smaller than the one I caught in Mocambique, so still no proper salt to rub it in with for Oyvind… but I’m a happy fisherman… and me and Henk had 3-4 other ones on that we lost… so at least we had some good action there for a while!

As we are talking there at the back of the boat… my gaze is constantly swiping the horizon and in the direction of the fishing lines where our hopes lie… From out of the blue comes a fin… I jump up in the air, shouting shark, shark!! It could only be a shark or sharklike something big… and just as I’ve uttered the words the reel start running!! I’m at the rod in a second… but Ali the captain is shouting; “Let it go! Let it go!” I am too excited though and start pulling immediately. I can feel something heavy… and that it suddenly falls off sort of… It was Ali’s special tackle that went… a hairy piece of cotton is a fully good description of it!!
Apparently the cotton thing is a special thing for Marlins and Sailfish. They need to tangle up in the cotton properly before you bring it in… so I blew it big time with my eagerness… Like a premature e****lation it felt like… so bloody exciting but over before it even started!! Who could have dreamt of a Marlin before this trip…?

I’m scouting for fins in the water and Sea Gulls on the hunt now… Suddenly I see two more fins in the water, but nothing happens… Then again we see two fins… Sailfish Ali confirms. As we pass the spot I’m waiting and waiting… and there the line goes again. “Hold it, hold it” Ali is screaming! I’m ready with the cup belt and just waiting to pull and pull like crazy… “Hold it… hold it”; Ali goes again. I’m getting a bit impatient now… I’m wondering whether Ramadan and his fasting mean that he can’t take any fish either… and now he is buggering everything up for me as good as he can…?! Insh Allah (if Allah allows it)… isn’t it… and not for him to decide?!! The line has been running forever now, but then suddenly a huge Sailfish leaps out of the water like a mirror reflecting the sun, spinning around in the air and disappears into the blue again… “Bring it in!”; Ali screams now… and all my doubts in him are gone!
I pull and pull, and realize the fish went quite a distance whilst I was on a hold, waiting for Ali’s go signal. The sailfish jumps spectacularly out of the water again and again and threatens to circle around the boat. I feel very alive with that big thing wriggling, pulling and jumping out there. I am happy only to have seen this live… like on TV. Already I will have a hell of a story to tell… but I manage to land the beast though… the Sailfish only a tad more exhausted than the fisherman. Assany, my dive buddy and crewmember, takes a firm grip on the spear and gives it a couple of knocks to the head. Together we carry it to the front of the boat where it is all mine to cuddle and be photographed with. I really had to sit there for a long time to study in awe this amazingly beautiful creature… almost sad that it was going to the pots in a few hours.

Our chef on board made a lovely Sailfish carpaccio, followed by a lovely garnished piece of Sailfish fillet from the braai. Ali (the captain), Assany (dive-buddy/crew) and Gerrard (chef) shared the rest of the Sailfish in three equally big bags to feed their families. They seemed very happy with their share!! Although we did not have a weight on board we estimate that it must have been around 55-60kg. That’s rubbing salt into Oyvinds already wounded pride!! Cheers!!!
Ready for sundowners we pass a couple of Humpback Whales playing in the surface… I’m full of impressions for the day… and it’s still not deeper than 32 meters according to the instruments…