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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Iceland 2013: Saga #3 – Meeting the locals

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you don’t like the weather in Iceland you just need to wait five minutes and it will change completely. And so it was after a wild and stormy night, the day dawned quiet and calm. Daybreak is a relative term and here on the Icelandic west coast in the winter the weak day light struggles to its feet by about 9:30 each morning. Spring is just around the corner though and at this latitude we gain an extra seven minutes of daylight each day. After a hearty breakfast our group headed down to the harbour to get kitted out for our morning adventure on the good ship, Laki.

The LakiGetting into the oversized ‘boiler suits’ can be a bit of a workout in themselves but it is well worth it for the comfort and protection they offer once out on the water. Once aboard we had a safety briefing and then everybody got settled, found ‘their’ spot on the boat, while Skappi (our skipper!) steered the Laki out of the harbour and into the fjord. We didn’t stay settled for long. Within 10 minutes of leaving port, the call went up from Ollie, one of the crew, that he could see orcas ‘at 12 o’clock!’. If you think of the boat as the face of a clock, then straight ahead off the bow is 12, the stern behind is 6, portside is 9 etc, etc. In the excitement of the moment things can get very confusing with people shouting out ‘whales at twenty past three!’. As everybody stared ahead scanning the distant horizon, a male orca surfaced just 100 metres off the bow and slowly started to circle the Laki, giving everyone a fantastic view.

The euphoria that broke out on the boat was infectious resulting in high fives, back slaps and huge grins from ear to ear. The orca seemed very relaxed in our company so we stayed with him for a further ten minutes before heading out deeper into the fjord to see another group that had just arrived. This group of six animals was comprised of two large males, three females and a new baby displaying the characteristic pinky-orange colouration on its eye patch and underbelly. This family group were very social and were spy hopping, tail slapping and back rolling.

Again, we restricted our time to about 15 minutes as we didn’t want to outstay our welcome and so left the orcas heading back out to the open ocean. Our cheerful group of self-confessed orcaholics returned to harbour sustained with hot chocolate, Icelandic donuts and memories that will last a lifetime.