|Killer Whale Safari at the
It's eight o'clock in the morning, the fishing boat which
should bring us to the Orcas has just arrived. Outside it's
still dark and cold. We are 250km above the polar circle in
Kabelvåg a small and quiet village on the Lofoten
Islands in Norway, and it's already end of October.
A few months ago we have started preparing and training
ourselves for this expedition, diving in extreme weather and
sea conditions combined with an Orca safari. We, that's Marc,
Alex and myself Jerome. Together with a german group of 6
divers we share a nice hostel in the harbour owned by Magne
Goffeng, the diving base leader.
Now as the hired fishing boat has arrived, we pack all the
necessary stuff for a planned 2 days trip to the Tysfjord, the
area where the Orcas migrate every year beginning of November
for hunting the herrings. Magne told us, he just saw a small
group of Orcas out in the fjord from his rubber boat last day.
So they are already here, but how many, will we get the chance
to find them?
Slowly and with wavy movements we leave Kabelvåg
behind us. We could do much faster with the rubber boat, but
here from the deck of the fishing boat we have perfect view
over the quite sea.
After a few hours we arrive in the Tysfjord and desperately
looking and searching the Orcas and finally, late in the
afternoon, we see black fins appearing on the sea surface
ahead. As the Tysfjord is famous and well known for the
Killerwhales, there are already two other boats cruising
around. The Orcas seam not to be interested in us or more
likely they are looking for feeding and they just disappear
before we approach them and reappearing in a different
location after a few minutes of diving. It's getting dark very
fast up here and shooting pictures becomes extremely difficult
especially with long focal lenses. This will definitely be
getting a challenge for a photographer.
So we decide to stay overnight in the harbour of Lødingen.
We have an unexpected visit of Annelie Utter, whale researcher
by passion. She was in the same area that afternoon on board
of her marvellous whale research sailing boat.
The next morning reveals the moody weather of Norway, grey
and stormy. Not very promising for Orca encounters.
The whole day long the weather gets worse and worse, so we
do some fishing, very easy indeed even for beginners. The way
back home ends up in a real storm and being on a fishing boat
is quite a dramatic experience.
But after a few days, more and more Orca families were
entering the fjord just near our diving base, so that we could
reach them easily only with our rubber boat, as this boat was
also much faster. They count each year up to 40 pods, each
12-15 animals in the fjord.
We had to be very patient to approach the whales, they have
to accept you, once this is done slightly slip into the water
without making to much noise and they will come by their own,
because they are very curious. The encounters were amazing,
look at what I have experienced during the first encounter.
After I've let myself gliding into the cold water from the
rubber boat, I was drifting alone on the surface. Suddenly no
more killer whales around, they seemed to have disappeared
again, as we had not yet the experience when to go exactly
into the water. Our rubber boat was quite far away already and
I had my uw-camera in the hand. I was looking in the endless
deep, dark and blurry water. Then I suddenly heard the sound
of the Orca's voice, squeaking and clicking noises. My heart
began to speed up and then I saw him coming from the depth
just full speed towards me, a huge male Orca, at least 6m. I
couldn't take any picture, I was like transfixed by this
encounter. What would happen now? The Orca was approaching
very fast, then stopped at a few meters only from me, turned
slightly his head and looked me eye in eye. This moment was
endless. I was scared but high on emotion as well, then he
turned back away and disappeared in the dark depth of the sea.
I was trembling when I finally reached the boat, but I was
happy. How happy I was!
Another day out with the Orcas, we had the opportunity to
observe their amazing and known as one of the most
sophisticated hunting techniques in nature. They enter in this
area because of the large schools of herrings in the fjord.
The hunt is based on the co-operation of the several animals
the same time. You can hear them communicating intensely
during the hunt. Some whales are circulating the herring
school to bring it closer together and up to the surface as
another one moves in from below with a strong and powerful
swing with its back tail. This shock blow makes some of the
herrings die immediately, others unconscious. Sometimes you
can see herrings trying to escape by the surface, we call them
the "flying herrings". Then the Orcas are catching
them one by one, biting the heads off to enjoy just the rest.
It's a real feast.
Being in the middle of this dramatic scenery and being left
untouched is unbelievable. We saw some frightened herrings
searching protection under our bodies after escaping from this
Who wants to play
The daylight has got slightly lost behind the horizon of the
fjord when suddenly a baby Orca has come out of the water near
our boat looking straight to us for a while. Researchers call
this over water observation technique "spy hopping".
As his head was out of the water and was turning himself to
his right side to gave us some winks with his side fin like
inviting us into the water made us very curious. I never saw
such behaviour from a wild living animal. We were all very
chilled out already from the whole day, but I couldn't resist,
so two of us slipped into the water and we were welcome by 4
baby Orcas (not so small at all). They started to play with us
swimming around, turning their white bellies towards us. It's
their must vulnerable point of their body, so must be some
kind of showing trust. Their movements seamed so aesthetic and
beautiful. After a while they realised we were just observers,
couldn't really play their game and they disappeared in a
formation of 2 groups of 2 in the groundless depths of the
fjord. What a day out!
Now I know this trip has changed in some way my life. I will
never forget the close encounters with these whales,
frightening but beautiful which is the Orca - we don't call
them Killer Whales anymore.
They gave us a new meaning of intelligent life on earth. We
developed a strong respect to this smart, aestetic and
beautiful animal. We were impressed by their social life,
their way of showing trust to us while hunting as a predator
in the sea.