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High seas diary: Part four - 50 killer whales in the can!

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Gordon Buchanan Gordon Buchanan | 14:06 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

If you've been reading my diary you'll know that I've so far been a mixture of nervous and excited. Excited at the thought of filming the orca; nervous because there was no guarantee we'd even see them.

It took so much effort just to get onto the boat that the thought of spending a week in the North Sea and then not seeing them wasn't good.

orca.jpg

A killer whale off Shetland. Photo copyright Andy Foote.

But now I can report... We have killer whales in the can!

It was an incredible sight. We didn't expect to drop the mackerel nets today at all. In the end we dropped them as a tester and then pulled them in very quickly, as there weren't that many fish going in. Cue 50 killer whales...

It all happened incredibly fast but I managed to shoot it. As it was our first morning we hadn't done any filming onboard before they dropped the nets. Quite unexpectedly, therefore, the first shots of the trip are of the whales!

As I write we are taking the fish we caught back to Lerwick where the crew will offload them. Then we're all heading back out to sea tomorrow night with high hopes of getting more cracking killer whale shots.

In the meantime, I'm sending footage and photos back to base so it'll be right here on the blog very very soon.

Read parts one, two and three.

Comments

  • 1. At 4:20pm on 13 Oct 2009, wildfreckle wrote:

    Fantastic - cant wait to see the results on Autumnwatch - how's the sea legs?

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  • 2. At 4:34pm on 13 Oct 2009, feistybadgergirl wrote:

    Wow, 50 whales! They must have known they had to put on a good show for us Autumnwatchers... Safe travels for your next trip out into the blue.

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  • 3. At 4:37pm on 13 Oct 2009, emptyland wrote:

    I knew you'd find them! I'm so pleased for you Gordon and for the rest of the crew too. Keep yourselves safe out there and I wish you equal success tomorrow.

    Samantha. x

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  • 4. At 5:23pm on 13 Oct 2009, U14000951 wrote:

    its not a whale its a dolphin. BUT 50!! wow

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  • 5. At 6:00pm on 13 Oct 2009, brocoe wrote:

    I am so pleased for you Gordon. Sounds as though you had the nicest kind of surprise to quickly film. Better than waiting for nothing. All the best for the next trip.

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  • 6. At 6:28pm on 13 Oct 2009, Nicola Main wrote:

    Fifty? Wow that must have been an awesome sight! Well done Gordon and co and hope you see them again tomorrow :)

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  • 7. At 7:21pm on 13 Oct 2009, Fluflew wrote:

    Amazing - can't wait to see the footage. So pleased for you.

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  • 8. At 8:21pm on 13 Oct 2009, helensmom wrote:

    Gordon deserves to see these after two weeks in Shetland a year or so back and having no luck, I hope everyone not familiar with the Northern North Sea just how challenging this is, well done !! Best wishes from helen's mom and dad!!

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  • 9. At 8:30pm on 13 Oct 2009, royalsuperstag wrote:

    Only wish i cud av been there, will av to wait till Friday. Going to Skye next week,hoping to see Whales, wish me luck!

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  • 10. At 8:41pm on 13 Oct 2009, Razcam wrote:

    Congratulations Gordon, 50 Orca's well worth getting sea legs for.
    Can't waite for the next episode.
    Only one small criticism, please will everyone stop calling them Killer Whales.
    Razcam.

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  • 11. At 9:15pm on 13 Oct 2009, Nic Davies wrote:

    Hi Gordon, sounds amazing. Only 50? So THAT'S where they all are! I'm sure I write for everyone on Mull, well done and keep up the excellent work. Hope the sea legs are holding out. Are you sick of mackerel yet?

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  • 12. At 9:19pm on 13 Oct 2009, Rob Ward wrote:

    50 orca's, that's incredible, 50, Wow well done Gordon. This is my mum's favourite animal on the planet and she will be watching eagerly on Friday.

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  • 13. At 10:53pm on 13 Oct 2009, RyanAFCT wrote:

    Congratulations! Can't wait for Friday's show now! Will there still be updates about the Red Deer rut throughout the rest of the series? I want to know who finishes as the top stag in the village green.

    Razcam, they've always been known worldwide as Killer Whales. Its just another name. Orca, Killer Whale, same thing. Not a big deal, at the end of the day, there are bigger issues in the world than correct terminology for a large cetacean. That is all :)

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  • 14. At 01:37am on 14 Oct 2009, Wildlife Filmer Adam wrote:


    Cool fantastic.

    I'd love to film them, from a boat, I'd be too scared to be in the water with 50 Kill Whales, if they'd kill and eat a Great White shark, them why would they not kill and eat me?



    Wildlife Filmer Adam

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  • 15. At 12:19pm on 14 Oct 2009, lotteryblog wrote:

    5o whales. Fantastic!!! Eagerly waiting for more photos.

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  • 16. At 4:46pm on 14 Oct 2009, pt_lichfield wrote:

    Well done Gordon :) You definitely earned that footage.

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  • 17. At 8:31pm on 15 Oct 2009, aquaticHerbie wrote:

    Congratulations, great experience and great filming

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  • 18. At 8:45pm on 15 Oct 2009, ChrisButlerStroud wrote:

    Congratulations Gordon.

    I first had teh privilage of seeing this behaviour in the mid 1990's when I travelled to Iceland for WDCS. I had the luck to travel with the Icelandoc fishing fleet to observe orcas south of Iceland. Having convinced them I was not there to cause them problems, the fishermen opened up and explained that they regarded the orca as 'colleagues'. This was at a time, like now, when politicians and whalers back in Iceland were agitating to kill whales, and orcas were portrayed as 'evil fish-eating vermin'

    The truth was that the fishermen would use their sonar to identify where the orca were at sea and the fishermen would then target that bit of ocean. Setting their nets (purse seine) where the orca were feeding, the fishermen stated that they would get a higher catch if they relied on the orca.

    What was fascinating was that the orca would sit back and wait for the net to be partly pulled in. In what appeared to be a well planned process that the orca were fully cognizant of, the fishermen would pause to allow 'stunned' fish to fall out of the top of the net and then the orca would come into feed. The most wonderful sight was seeing a female bringing in a calf and nudging the cal towards the net to catch its first (or nearly first fish). Repeated passes were observed until the calf had successfully taken a fish, to which I could swear the mother was 'smiling'.

    The rest of the pod would then come into feed. All the while, the fishermen would watch and wait until they felt the whales had had enough and then pulled their nets in. The whales would then, as one, head off to the next Icelandic fishing vessel on the horizon - a bit like finishing at one feeding station and now onto the next.

    The boat I was on collected their fish and then moved on again towards where the whales were to be found to set their nets again and the whole process was repeated.

    On the return trip I asked the fishermen what they felt about the political arguments that 'whales were eating all the fish', an argument that the Icelandic Government still makes. I remember one fisherman dismissing it as 'Reykjavik politics' and that the whales were 'their friends'.

    I remember the evening ending with me watching the stunning sight of a male orca, with a six foot fin, swimming slowly past the boat, its fin so tall that it appeared to cut out the light from the moon as it passed.

    http://www2.wdcs.org/blog/

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