Brothers swim across notorious Corryvreckan whirlpool with whisky strapped to their backs

As wild swimming goes, it does not get much more challenging.

Brothers Nick and Alex Ravenhall swam across the Corryvreckan with bottles of whisky strapped to their bodies to raise money for Sea Shepherd New Zealand.
Brothers Nick and Alex Ravenhall swam across the Corryvreckan with bottles of whisky strapped to their bodies to raise money for Sea Shepherd New Zealand.

Two New Zealand-born brothers have just completed a crossing of The Corryvreckan, the world’s third largest whirlpool, as part of a bid to raise awareness of the world’s vulnerable waterways.

And if that was not challenging enough, the pair completed the swim with bottles of whisky strapped to their bodies.

Known as The Whisky Smugglers, brothers Alex and Nick Ravenhall, are embarking on a series of wild water swims in some of the UK’s most treacherous waters to raise money for charity Sea Shepherd New Zealand.

Along with the Corryvreckan, the pair are undergoing multiple swims, including crossing Channel, whilst transporting drams of whisky to be blended and sold as limited-edition scotch whisky. Teaming up with some of UK’s leading whisky distilleries, the drams will be used to create bespoke cask whiskies, which will be sold later this year to raise money to help protect and conserve New Zealand’s waters.

The brothers now based in the UK both work in the new world whisky scene with Nick being managing director for Edinburgh’s Holyrood Distillery, whilst Alex head of events for Atom Brands.

After the swim, Nick said: "Today’s crossing was the best yet. Perfect conditions with a sunny sky and no wind. As we came into the Corryvreckan there was a standing wave at the eastern entrance and swirling moving currents that died down as the tide settled. We were welcomed to the swim by curious seals, friendly porpoises and watchful sea eagles.

"The team swam strong and confidently and completed the distance in record time"

They were joined on the challenge by Jack Revell, Lucy Geraghty, Rachel Masson, Susie Matthews, and Alex McEwan.

The brothers founded Whisky and Waves, an ocean awareness campaign, to call attention to the vulnerability of the waterways. They spent their childhood on the coast growing up on the coast, regularly wild swimming with their father.

Famously described by the Royal Navy as unnavigable, the Corryvreckan lies between the isles of Jura and Scarba in the Inner Hebrides.

The unique geological structure on the seabed - essentially, an underwater mountain - creates the whirlpool, the third largest in the world. Water rushing in towards a 200m pinnacle of rock in the narrow Jura strait, the peak of which sits only 30m from the surface, creates the violent phenomenon.

Over the centuries, the Corryvreckan is thought to have swallowed scores of sailors caught unaware by its ferocity, particularly in bad weather where standing waves of 15ft have been reported.

George Orwell famously had an encounter with its danger. The author set off on a boat with his nieces and nephews in 1947 as he took a break from writing 1984. Orwell came into difficulty as he approached the whirlpool, after which his boat began to sink in the Corryvreckan - the crew barely made it to safety on a nearby island. An old legend about a Norse king named Breachan, after which the Corryvreckan is said to be named, has it that the Viking drowned in the whirlpool trying to prove his courage to the locals.