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.
Getting 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.