Northern Tales: PART Three – The Orcas

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Orca Dorsal Fins

Birgitta Mueck, one in every of our PADI AmbassaDivers, exhibits us the thrills of dive exploration with this unique Three-part account of her newest chilly water adventures. Crusing by means of the northern fjords of Sweden and Norway, Birgitta has looked for deep, uncommon species and pods of feeding orcas. On this last installment of ”Northern Tales” uncover her unimaginable encounters with orcas.


And So The Season Begins

We've now arrived in Vengsøy island, and the native fishermen have informed us that solely a small quantity of herrings have entered the fjords up to now. They're all nonetheless ready for the larger faculties of fish to seem, which additionally influences the migration route of the whales.

We head out from the fjords to take a look a bit additional out to sea. The low solar reflecting on the mirror-like ocean floor provides the whole surrounding a warming contact regardless of the chilly air biting each my cheeks and nostril. All of a sudden, one thing begins to seem additional within the distance. It appears like a blow nearer to the horizon. Eager to get a better look, we modify course in the direction of it. I really feel the adrenaline rising via my complete physique once I, by means of the binoculars, see the large black dorsal fins gracefully slicing by means of the floor. There are not any doubts about it, they're orcas!

The most important member of the dolphin household, orcas are toothed whales reaching a most size of 10 meters. These extremely social marine mammals reside collectively in massive, secure household teams. Typically referred to as “the wolves of the ocean”, however extra generally named “killer whale”, the orcas have a variety of reputations, from having the souls of people to probably the most cruel killers. In earlier days no one dared to enter the water if an orca was in sight. At present we all know extra about these majestic creatures. They don't seem to be cruel killers, however clever mammals specialised in several preys. Present in all oceans, orcas hunt a fantastic number of preys corresponding to fish, cephalopods, seals, sea lions, whales, sea birds and sea turtles. They're nevertheless meals searching specialists, which signifies that the orcas specific sort of prey differs rather a lot between the totally different populations. Right here in Norway for instance, the orcas have specialised in herring which is their important meals supply.

07 Feeding Orcas

Our boat is now surrounded by searching orcas, and the sky above us shortly begins to get crammed with many hungry seagulls and eagles, who additionally need their a part of the herring feast. Prepared in my drysuit, and with the underwater digital camera in my palms, I slowly slip into the 7°C chilly water (sure it acquired colder!), making an attempt to create as little splash as attainable. The loud noise from the screaming seabirds shortly will get changed beneath the floor by the far more soothing and enchanting variations of sounds that the orcas create. The chilly, salty water bites the bare pores and skin on my face, however I shortly overlook about it once I see an enormous darkish shadow in entrance of me. It's a massive male orca curiously swimming in the direction of the little blue dressed snorkeler that I'm.

In comparison with his huge sized physique, his eye seems very small and crammed with curiosity when taking a look at me earlier than swimming again to his pod. I hear repetitive surge of cracking noise within the water, and perceive it's the sound from the highly effective tail-slaps the orcas make to numb their prey.

Tail-slapping orcas

The Norwegian orcas use a selected technique to effectively hunt and feed on the herring. To lure the varsity of fish they've developed a particular method referred to as “carousel feeding”, a teamwork which now's occurring proper in entrance of me. The orcas take benefits of the herrings protection mechanism which is to type a decent defensive group creating confusion within the predators thoughts. To set off the herrings to group, the pod of orcas launch bubbles and present their white underside of their our bodies whereas circulating in sphere across the herrings, which frightens the fish nearer and nearer collectively, creating what known as a bait ball. When the herrings are sufficiently grouped, the whales swim nearer and slap the sting of the ball with their tails (tail-slapping), which may numb or kill as much as 10-15 herring with every profitable slap. Thereafter, the orcas gently begins to eat the surprised herring one after the other. Because it typically occurs, the carousel feeding migrates in the direction of me and the orcas don’t appear to be bothered in any respect about my presence within the water.

Orca And Herring

As I need to be as little affect as potential of their world I all the time reduce all motion forwards or backwards. So even when the bait ball goes in my path I attempt to keep as discrete as potential simply beneath the floor whereas filming the spectacular wildlife phenomena occurring in entrance of my eyes.

As soon as once more, I’m completely overwhelmed. I not take into consideration the breathtaking mountain peaks, nor the magic of the northern lights. Right here and now it’s solely me and the good orcas having fun with their lunch of their chilly however but so superb Arctic paradise.

What an amazing starting of our keep right here above the Polar circle. Who is aware of what different experiences this Arctic journey will deliver as that is simply the beginning of a hopefully lengthy season of the winter whales…


This concludes Birgitta’s collection of  ”Northern Tales”. Missed a chapter? Go to Part 1 and Part 2 to catch up. 

As a PADI AmbassaDiver, Birgitta shall be retaining us updated together with her unimaginable adventures. For additional studying and extra footage from Birgitta’s Arctic whale expedition, and her many different adventures, please go to her weblog Film Photo Adventure and Fb web page Birgitta Mueck.

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