Spring in the arctic. While most people think of blooming flowers, bird songs and melting snow, the spring in Tromsø is so much more. Below the surface kelp-forests starts to grow back, algae blooms and fish ascends from the depths. Life returns to the underwater world as well.
In Tromsø there is a small community who awaits the spring in the waters. It is the start of the freediving season. This means the start of spearfishing and marine foraging such as picking crabs, shellfish and different types of kelp. Springtime is also very dear to us because of the wolffish.
The wolffish looks like no other. It has a moray-eel body with a vicious-looking head and even a more vicious bite. Its hideous appearance is misguiding because they are in fact quite docile creatures. Nevertheless, they seem to have fierce fights with each other and some of them even have scars from territorial battles. They also have amazingly sturdy skin. During the Second World War, because of lack of resources, Norwegians used the wolffish-skin to make leather.
This mythical creature gets up in shallow waters to eat sea-urchins and reproduce. It likes to hide under rocks and kelp and thus it can be hard to find. However, its grey-blue body is quite easy to spot for a trained eye. Wolffish meat is considered to be a delicacy and it is often at the menu in top-tier restaurants. Because of overfishing, the species have become a rare sight with Tromsø being one exception having a very dense population. Spearfishers must still have an awareness of the impact they make. We must hunt responsibly. We usually start the freediving-season with taking some wolffish to make the traditional Norwegian fishcakes. After making a batch of fishcakes we let wolffish be and focus our hunting after big cod, pollock and the legendary halibut.
Clear blue skies and sun makes diving much more comfortable although the waters is at constant four degrees this time of year. After a relaxed deep breath, one submerges and calmly swims down. As the body descends the water pressure compresses the body and one slowly starts to get negative buoyancy. You get the feeling of flight when the current makes you glide effortlessly some meters above the bottom. The trained freediver is not stressed underwater. Everyone has mammalian dive reflexes which enables the body to keep an anaerobic activity. The trained freediver has enhanced these reflexes to a level where he or she, for a limited amount of time, can forget the life and troubles above surface and only focus on the underwater world. Cliffs covered with sea urchins and starfish, schools of pollock or a lurking wolffish hidden in the swirling kelp becomes the focal point of your consciousness. Nothing can be better than that.
Freediving is about knowing your own body and your own limits. It is also about finding out a whole new universe below the surface. You could start out in the shallowest of waters. In the shallows one can forage kelp, sea-snails and clams. Don’t hesitate to get the whole arctic experience both above and below the surface.