Norway Orca Trip

Dec 03 2021 Posted by Office Administraton

by Alex

A group of Irish underwater photographers mainly from the west of Ireland recently completed a trip to Arctic Norway where they undertook a whale watching adventure in Kvaenangen and Reisafjorden fjords. Flying to Tromso and traveling overland to the fjords where in recent years a component of the Norwegian spring spawning herring stock have been overwintering , the group hoped to witness the feeding spectacle that is associated with the orca and humpback whales who follow the overwintering herring into the fjords. The humpback whales are believed to be making an early stop off on their winter migration to the Carribean in order to grab a last minute snack as they will complete the return journey without significant feeding opportunities until they return to the arctic next spring. The orca population that is associated with this herring stock is believed to number up to 3,000 animals and this year estimates suggest that 150 animals or thereabouts were actively feeding in Kvaenangen fjord.

It was hoped to witness the animals at their most spectacular – when they have coralled schools of herring into shallow waters, causing a surface feeding frenzy involving countless seabirds, dozens of orcas and lunge feeding humpbacks. When suitable opportunities arose to view and photograph / video the animals in water by freediving and without causing disturbance or hindering feeding activity, wetsuit clad hardy individuals entered the 5 deg C water armed with the latest imaging technology. Some spectacular underwater imagery was obtained and everyone learned about the many difficulties of capturing black orcas and humpbacks animals in dark waters at 70 degrees north in winter time! Only for the white saddleback marking on an orca some cameras probably would not have achieved focus.

In addition, thousands of surface images of orcas and humpbacks were obtained and have been made available to researchers at the Norwegian Orca Survey and the North Norwegian Humpback Whale Catalogue. The trip was tremendously successful and a great way to learn about the ecosystem of the Norwegian and Barents Seas and to connect with nature at a time of year when you would be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t a lot going on in the ocean!

The trip was put together and led by Nick Pfeiffer who completed his 5th consecutive trip to the area and his 7th overall to Northern Norway to witness, film and photograph Arctic marine megafauna. Members of Dalkey Scubadivers, Kilkee SAC and Inbher Sceine SAC joined the trip at various stages.


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