Sunday 30 May 2010

A close to death experience and then some orca action

The last week, I went to a remote island together with my good friend and colleague Kjetil, his son and his father in law. We hoped to do some seabird photography, but out at the island Halten the weather was to be modest – not the best. There is a good sized colony of shag at the island, and this is actually the first time I try to photograph this bird. To be honest, I found it quite difficult. The birds actually carry a fantastically colourful plumage, but with heavy white clouds and in pouring rain its difficult to make the right exposure to give them justice.

I like to think of myself as quite used to live at remote places now and then, but I guess that the lighthouse master at this lighthouse was quite glad that Norway decided to automatize all lighthouses some years ago....

You never know when you will be eaten........

A group of shags posing for the cameraman

The trip out there wasn’t all that uneventful either. Almost there, at about 40 nautical miles from the mainland, and for the first time on the trip, we were quite close to some skerries. About 50 meters away to be precise, the boat decided to make our trip a bit more adventorous than we had expected. We lost the steering, and then the steering mechanism hit our propellar so the engine stopped and the propellar was heavily deformed. Not exactly what you wish for far away at open sea…Because of the current, we drifted towards the skerries a bit faster than ideal, but fortunately there was virtually no waves (you have to look for the positive in such situations). We hastely found the oares, turned the boat around with amazingly good precision, and got the small sail up (yes – in fact for the first time ever in my life, we had brought a sail with us on a motor boat….). The wind drifted us slowly away from the skerries, which is probably unnescessary to say that we all were quite pleased to see. I have never been so close to sinking a boat before in my life. The skipper onboard somehow managed to fix the engine and steering, but with one hitch – the boat only worked going backwards! A fun experience, when you realize that the nearest mainland was 5 hours away with normal sailng. To make a long night short – out at the island, we fixed the thing so it went the right way and then we got to enjoy the island as well. Because I had my mind on rescuing lives and boat, I unforutnately dont have any images to show you this memorable experience.

A whale blowing in no wind...

On the way back, we had another surprise when we came across a huge orca male. Maybe not as much action as our close to sinking experience, but just as much of an adrenalin kick and just as much memorable as well. He (the whale) decided to play with us, something we of course hugely appreciated. The whale followed us, and we him for about 1,5hrs. Every time we went away, he swam to us and vice versa.

Several times the 10 m long whale swam under our boat. To have an adult orca swimming along a 26 feet wooden boat on less than 10 m distance is something I can recommend to everybody who is remotely interested in cetaceans. The orca suddenly speeded up and we all thought that he was fed up with us, but to our surprise he came back up with a huge fish in his mouth! Unfortunately he swallowed it before we could make evidence of this with our cameras. After a while, we decided to leave the whale alone, and turned our boat away. The whale stopped, put himself on the back and started to flap his tail before he joined the rest of his pod on the other side of the fjord. We decided to take the tail lobbing as an orca’s way of saying goodbye and thanks for playing. We thank him too, and probably enjoyed it even more than him.

An orca saying good bye :-)

Latest: Part of this story is also published in one of Norway's largest newspapers here.


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