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Norway Diary: Orca Ahoy
Northern Norway is a fair bit less hospitable for swimming with massive sea creatures than the warm waters of Dominica, but it was worth a shot to go there and participate in the largest annual gathering of orcas (killer whales, for the politically incorrect) on the planet. Hundreds gather there each year in the winter months to feast on herring in order to fatten up for the rest of the year when hunting might be more difficult.
As an apex predator, orcas don’t much worry about other creatures in the water with them — even people — and there is no record of a human fatality in the open ocean at the mouth of an orca. That was reassuring to me, given that they can reach twenty-six feet in length and weigh over six tons. Their top speed is 35mph. Most impressive is the male’s dorsal fin; at as much as six feet in height, it towers over humans sitting in a boat.
To swim in 40° water with the big guys (and gals), one wears a dry suit, a rubber garment with latex gaskets around your throat, wrists and ankles — along with multiple layers of merino wool and fleece underneath. However, sitting in a small boat for hours as the crew attempts to find a feeding pod can turn a fella mighty cold.
We were not successful in swimming with Norway’s orcas due the presence of a great many humpback whales in the fjords this year. Normally pods of orcas will cooperate to corral huge numbers of herring into “bait balls,” and then stun bunches of them with tail slaps before eating them one by one. However this year, once a bait ball had been assembled, the humpbacks would move in and scarf up the whole thing with a big-mouthed gulp (the BBC describes the whole competitve process here). So the orcas changed their strategy and just mooched around in small groups, feeding on fish that they might happen upon. When we tried to get into the water with them, they would move off. A bait ball would have kept them close to one location:
Addendum: One member of our party, Penn grad Kabir Teja, arrived with first-class camera gear and a drone. He produced a video about our trip:
He has some nice aerial shots of orcas starting at 1:28.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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