We’ve been knotty

In our spare time, several of us have taken up practicing the art of topology – also commonly referred to as knot-tying. We are newly converted disciples to the teachings of the Ashley Book of Knots (1944), in which over 3,000 knots are described with crisp detail and illustration. Here are a few knots we have learned to tie, and their purposes.


Bowline. This is by far everyone’s favorite knot, since it is versatile and used on the deck quite frequently. This knot is easily tied with a helpful story about a rabbit running in, out, and about its burrow. In this picture, Hassan proudly displays his handiwork.


Fisherman’s knot. This knot is a useful way to join opposite ends of a piece of rope into a loop. It is tied on the Trawl-Resistant Mounted Seismometer (TRMS) casing, so when they are being hoisted in the air we can attach taglines to ensure it doesn’t swing about too much.


Constrictor knot. This was tied to challenge Kelly’s primary talent in the realm of topology – untying knots. The Constrictor is “ratchetlike” in that it is extremely tight and can be almost impossible to untie once fastened. Kelly’s record to untie this knot is 34 seconds!


Oysterman’s knot. Here, we see an actual Oyster-Man (John owns an Oyster farm in Massachusetts – Blue Yonder Oyster Farm) learning how to tie the Oysterman’s stopper knot.


Half hitch. One of the more peculiar knots, it hardly appears to be a knot at all, yet is entrusted with our most precious cargo – the seismometer. It is interestingly “hitched” around itself and fixed to its standing end. After 15 months at sea, this knot remains sturdy enough to pull the seismometer from depths exceeding 2000 meters.


Several others we’ve tied: Clove hitch, Sheep bend, Square knot, Midshipman’s hitch, Stevedore knot, and Figure-eight on a bight. Bonus picture of Kelly’s face. Knot-tying can be challenging!

We would like to especially thank Ted Koczynski for his encouragement and prodding in our topology endeavors, and for giving us a digital copy of the Ashley book. Without him, we would knot be having nearly this much fun!

– David Heath, Graduate Student


1 thought on “We’ve been knotty

  1. If I have room I pack my copy of “The Ashley Book of Knots” on research cruises for just this purpose!


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