THE place to be

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17/2/14  Those of us who work in whale-watching know that no two days are exactly the same, there is always something new, and today was almost an over-proof of this. On the morning tour we went out to Kolgrafarfjörður whilst knowing that Orcas were on the other side of the bridge. All we could do was hope that they would make their way out soon. To our disappointment, especially after yesterday, they were still on the other side when we arrived and the research team on their zodiac over on the other side informed us that the Orcas showed no sign of being about to leave. While White-tailed Eagles and the scenery made a bit up for the disappointment, it was clear that staying longer would serve no purpose so we started making our way back, of course in the hope that we would run into some on the way back. But once we were outside the fjord, we got the call that we had been waiting for all morning and all yesterday. It was from Filipa, the head researcher. The Orcas had just passed under the bridge! Captain Gísli instantly turned the boat around and we went back as fast as the conditions allowed. And there they were, a beautiful pod of ~12 Orcas, including a young calf, travelling at fast speed out from their combined breakfast and lunch. It was such a thrill to see them again after yesterday’s no sightings tours! We followed them in a respectable distance along with the two research zodiacs until we simply had to return to Grundarfjörður to drop off the morning passengers and pick up the new ones and then we went soon out again. One of the zodiacs had continued to follow them so upon leaving for the afternoon tour, the captain radioed the zodiac to receive the location of the Orcas and found that they had changed course from heading west to heading north into Breiðafjörður and were around 40 minutes out. This meant that in order to find them, we’d not only have a longer tour than usual but also in a rougher sea and we’d also have to be without the cover from the wind that the mountains provide when we are closer to shore. We informed the passengers and fortunately they agreed that the probable minor discomfort would be worth it. Out in the bay the waves were so rough that we had trouble spotting the zodiac, let alone the Orcas. However, fortunately we found them after a while and managed to have quite a quality time with them, given the conditions at least. And as a bonus, we got to contribute indirectly to science. Part of the research team had come with us on Brimrún as as backup plan in case the zodiac would have to return before managing to accomplish their mission, that of recovering a satellite tag that had been attached on one of the Orcas in the morning and had been programmed to fall off in the afternoon and float on the surface. It was anything but easy to track the satellite tag, let alone get it onboard, in such rough water but we managed and returned totally thrilled from this long tour, having accomplished all our goals: the crew to show whales, the passengers to see them, and the researchers to recover their valuable equipment.

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