During Norway’s frigid winter, its majestic Arctic coastline and stunning fjords attract voluminous schools of herring, which in turn attract pods of Orcas. After determining the direction baitfish are being chased by resident Orcas, we will pursue these magnificent mammals until we can slip silently into the water for close up views and photographs of these magnificent mammals satiating their huge appetites.
The trip is greater enhanced by the pod’s social behavior. Not unlike the humpback whales unique “bubbling” feeding technique, Orcas display an activity called “carouseling.” Swimming under schools of herring, they exhale volumes of air bubbles to separate herring schools. Separated and carried helplessly towards the surface, smaller bait balls make easy pickings for hungry pods.
An activity witnessed by only a handful of snorkelers allows you the privilege to view the whale during its unique feeding behavior. Quietly, two of us at a time will slip into the water to observe the pod feeding. While we are snorkeling and free-diving, Orcas, curious by nature, will amaze us with very close encounters. You can count on my photographic experience to help make this nine-day trip one of a lifetime.
As the majestic Arctic coastline and stunning fjords come into view, we will become captivated by the warm, brief photographic sunlight rising and lowering over snow-covered peaks. Our Orca adventure begins as we board Miss Sula, a 90-foot retro-fitted trawler that has spent years plying Norway’s fjords. Once aboard, its quarters become part of the experience, one that creates a special bond with new friends sharing a totally unique wildlife experience. One where we will view massive schools of herring chased by orcas, as well as humpbacks that have modified their primary diet of krill to include herring. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Miss Sula offers a lounge, equipment and drying room. It is fully heated with five cabins (four doubles and one quad) equipped with washbasins, but we keep the ship feeling spacious by limiting the trip to 8 divers. The boat has shared toilets and a shower. It’s cozy, offering a unique charm to view incredible Norway sights. Six enthusiastic crew members are committed to assist us. A professional chef will see that we are well fed. All food and soft drinks are included in the trip.
There is a lot of action to squeeze into a four hour day when the sun rises around 10am and darkness is upon us by 3pm. Light is limited at this time of year, but the frigid waters of the North Sea are exceedingly clear, boasting horizontal visibility up to 50 feet, and vertical visibility up to 100 feet. We begin cruising through the majestic fjords early in the morning as the light is just starting to shine. As soon as we spot the Orca pods, which can sometimes take up to two hours, we split the team into two so that each Zodiac carries only four divers.
The in-water encounters are the best when conducted with only two divers at a time so as not to scare the Orcas or interrupt their feeding action. At most we may allow four people in the water at once during specific highly active or frenzied situations. Since there is only enough ambient light for photography four to five hours a day and the Orcas are spread out through the fjord, we use two vessels to provide our guests with the best possible chances of observing Orcas. If we only used one vessel, wait times could be too long and some people might miss all the action if the encounters are slow. Having two Zodiacs gives everyone more opportunities to get in the water with these amazing mammals instead of just watching them from the surface. That is Big Animals experience shining through.
Beyond beautiful fjords and mesmerizing Orcas, there are moose and other Arctic animals to be seen. It is a rare privilege to be able to view the unique wildlife of our polar north silhouetted against the magnificent wonders of the Northern Lights.
Aurora borealis is the breathtaking natural light display that paints the polar skies with a rainbow of cosmic material that looks more like magic than reality. “Aurora” is the Latin word for “sunrise” and is also the name of the Roman Goddess of Dawn, while “Boreas” is the Greek word for “north wind.” This captivating phenomenon happens when highly charged electrons from solar wind interact with elements in the Earth’s atmosphere. As charged particles at the poles enter the atmosphere, they ionize and excite different elements, consequently producing the ghostly green and sometimes red light characteristic of aurora borealis. The aurorae almost appear to dance across the sky as magnetic and electrical forces react with one another in ever-changing combinations. The extraordinary beauty of the Northern Lights adds another layer of unparalleled imagery opportunities to this already unforgettable polar experience.
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