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FROM A MOUNTAINTOP TO 1,000 FATHOMS DEEP
Robert H. Boyle
August 17, 1964
In length, the Hudson is a minor stream compared to the great rivers of the world. But from its origin in the Adirondack Mountains to its enormous canyon on the ocean floor, the Hudson is an extraordinary experience—rich in scenery, in fish and in controversy
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August 17, 1964

From A Mountaintop To 1,000 Fathoms Deep

In length, the Hudson is a minor stream compared to the great rivers of the world. But from its origin in the Adirondack Mountains to its enormous canyon on the ocean floor, the Hudson is an extraordinary experience—rich in scenery, in fish and in controversy

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It was not until some 30 years after Beebe's trip that a different kind of fisherman took a look at the canyon—a sports angler named Finn Haakon Magnus. Magnus is a beefy, inventive Norwegian who came to the U.S. at 17. He is now 56. Fifteen years ago he made a fortune manufacturing plastic harmonicas. He added to his wealth by inventing a small portable plastic organ with numbered keys, which enabled a musical illiterate to play a tune within 10 minutes. Given ample money and time, Magnus decided to turn to the sea. He bought a 40-foot Matthews cruiser and navigational charts. After some study—Magnus is not the sort to do things on impulse—he reasoned that the Hudson Canyon looked promising, and so he lassoed on extra gasoline tanks and embarked to jeers that he was "a crazy Norwegian." What he discovered was some crazy big-game fishing. He soon sold his boat and spent $100,000 on a new one specially designed to make the long trip from Brielle, N.J. in four and a half hours. The new boat, a 47�-footer named Magnus, is equipped with radar, loran, depth finder, depth thermometer, fish finder, ship-to-shore telephone and a small plastic organ on which Magnus thumps out Home on the Range and You Are My Sunshine during starlit nights over the canyon.

He has found a tremendous variety of life in the canyon: giant leatherback turtles upwards of 1,000 pounds, killer whales, pilot whales, sharks and porpoises that can make the water boil for miles. Most of all, there are big-game fish, some of which are not supposed to be in the area at all. Pacific albacore are so plentiful as to be pests. One day Magnus caught 17 in self-defense. "I didn't want to catch any more," he says. "I wanted to get away from them." There are blue marlin, very rare north of Hatteras, 500-pound bluefin tuna, the yellowfin tuna, a very warm-water fish, and white marlin from 45-90 pounds. Magnus' son, Kenneth, caught a rare bigeye tuna that weighed 245 pounds. There are multitudes of dolphin, bluefish and tilefish. Once Magnus caught two lancet fish in the depths. These are eel-shaped monstrosities with great spiny dorsal fins like sails and alligator mouths with sharp teeth an inch long. "I believe the canyon is the most fabulous fishing spot in the world," Magnus says.

Below the surface the water temperature fluctuates wildly. Within one 500-foot section, Magnus found a difference of 27�. The Gulf Stream flows 150 miles to the east, but there are days, Magnus says, when it veers in toward land. A pale blue, it snakes into the indigo waters of the canyon, and the temperature jumps 10�. It carries small, strange fish by the thousands, and flying fish ordinarily not found north of Florida fill the air with frightened leaps.

After fishing the canyon for five years, Magnus has come up with a theory of his own on fish migration. In essence, he believes that fish do not migrate by instinct or what one might call free will. They move from place to place, he says, because they live in blocks of water that are constantly shifting according to the rhythms of the sea. The fish, in short, are "captives of their environment," and they are wafted into the canyon by forces beyond their control.

Frank Mather III, an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who corresponds with Magnus, says, "We're getting quite excited [about the canyon] at the Institution. There is absolutely no doubt that large predator fish are concentrated in unusually large numbers." Mather, in fact, is so excited that he has asked the National Science Foundation to back extensive studies of the canyon.

Although Magnus spends the summer at sea in splendid isolation, Mather reports that in October and November commercial fishermen, mainly from Nova Scotia, flock to the canyon. "The Canadians," Mather says, "learned about it from the Scandinavians, who accidentally found swordfish while fishing for sharks." The commercial fishermen catch swordfish with hooks, instead of the traditional harpoons. They string long, multihooked lines from floating barrels, and the swordfish either take the motionless bait or are foul-hooked in the attempt. In a good night a single ship may haul in as many as 100, more than a crew used to harpoon in an entire season. Perhaps the scope of the Hudson is best seen by simply comparing its beginning in a fishless mountain pool with its terminus 100 miles at sea where fishing fleets catch swordfish by the thousands.

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