January 2007
Snorkelling with killer whales

Orca come into this fjord each winter to follow vast shoals of herring.

Its that boat again.

Heading out in punchy little Zodiacs.

We had to wear more clothes than I have ever needed before : several warm layers under a heavy exposure suit, which in turn was under a dry suit. (The yellow-clad people in the boat above weren't going snorkelling like us.)

The water at 5°C above zero wasn't the problem - we were told to dip our feet in the fjord, if they got chilled.

Weather and light were constantly changing, as we scanned the waves for fins.

The fishermen and other boats also reported in with sightings.

This is a male, easily recognisable by the large dorsal fin.

I didn't take many photos - lots of spray in the choppy waters, and we had to be prepared to get in the water.

We went in four times, and on three occassions I saw a single orca underwater, as it disappeared into the deep.

Heading back in, after an intense and very cold three hours stint.

In the evening, the location of orca pods was marked on maps of the fjords.

As was explained in an amazingly engaging evening lecture on herring (thanks to Chantalle's enthusiasm) the herring change their migration patterns every twenty years or so, partly because of ocean currents, and partly because of predation.

An earlier change in migration patterns led to rich fishing, and the explosive growth of Bodø, a town we had travelled through on our journey north.

This photo of an exhibit in the Nordland Museum in Bodø shows a 19th C fishing vessel called a jakt offloading a catch at Kjerringgøy.

The herring seem to be changing their migration patterns currently, and the orca will follow...


Our second day was rougher and more overcast.

We saw this cod fisherman circled by flocks of seagulls, and massive sea eagles snatching up fish heads.

The pods didn't dive immediately this time - but we only had one chance to get in the water with them.

Lots of little ones, which looked just like scaled-down adults

The embedded video below was hosted on video.google.com - remember that?
I'll need to find the original CD to reload it...

The orca are out there, somewhere...