EXPEDITION TO NORWAY
A BIG FISH EXPEDITIONS TRIP
expedition in the true sense of the word, our first killer
whale diving trip to the fiords of Norway was a adventure
none of us will ever forget. We met the expedition ship MS
Sula in Rorvik on a crisp late January afternoon. The sky
was clear but the captain warned us that the tail end of a
North Sea hurricane would likely lock us out of the offshore
herring grounds for half of the trip. It was tough blow but
storms are to be expected at this time of the year.
Unperturbed, we prepared our scuba gear for our back up plan
of diving in the fiords until the weather improved.
sun never strays higher than 30 degrees above the horizon in
the winter months, the days were quite bright and the
underwater visibility in the fiords around Rorvik was
If you enjoy
dramatic wall diving with great invertibrate life, you'll
love Norway! Each dive I descended down to 30-40m and stared
into the depths, wondering how far the cliffs continued into
the inky abyss. As usual, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of
a shark but none appeared (blackmouth catsharks and
velvetbelly sharks are usually spotted during the summer)
but sizable cod, pollack and other food fish were
omnipresent, especially at night.
days of 'waiting' I managed to shoot all sorts of crazy
critters including enormous spikey king crabs, five species
of squat lobsters, endless varieties of nudibranchs, sea
hares, hermits, brilliantly coloured sea stars, beautiful
anemones and urchins growing on sunlit kelp fronds and a
whole lot more. Even if you don't come here to dive with
killer whales, I recommend Norway as an amazing non-tropical
(aka bloody cold) place to dive.
So it was good diving but it wasn't our primary goal.
Fortunately, by day four the winds started to die down and
we spent a day cruising south to get in front of the herring
run. The herring migrate south in their hundreds of millions
each January. They follow a fairly reliable pattern along
the central coast of Norway but the ship stayed in constant
communication with the Norwegian herring fishing fleet to
pinpoint exactly where the front of the herring train was
located. Thousands of killer whales take advantage of this
yearly feast and they like to feed at the front of the
The next morning it was on! We left the fiords and motored
out to engage the first pod of about a dozen killer whales.
An enormous male orca with a dorsal fin standing as high as
a man sliced through the waves, flanked by smaller (but
still huge) mature females closely guarding dolphin sized
We jumped in the chase boat and dove in two small groups to
avoid spooking the killers because although they are more
than capable of defending themselves, they are also very shy
animals. The first group to enter the water lucked out
almost immediately when a large female orca closed the gap
for a better look.
Footage and stills in the bag, we chased the pod until until
they tired of us and suddenly disappeared. As the day was
drawing to a close, we returned to the Sula and motored
south again to be ready for the next day's encounters.
That night we made landfall just north of Kristiansund and
went ashore to shoot landscapes filled with stars.
The next morning (our last day of the trip) dawned clear and
relatively warm. By the time the sun rose we were out among
the herring boats shooting topside images of orcas feeding
cooperatively with humpback whales. First the killer whales
would drive the herring to the surface. Then they would peel
off when a humpback rolled through the bait ball; its tail
clear of the water as it dove down again with a mouthful of
fish. It was a spectacular sight that I found difficult to
capture succinctly on film but I have it etched indelibly in
Once the sun was high enough for underwater photography, we
geared up and leapt into the chase boat again. The
rest of the day we spent chasing the pod. It wasn't easy to
get close passes underwater but we persevered and we had a
few encounters that yielded great results as this image
Tired and cold but with our minds full of killer whales, we
caught up with Sula in Kristiansund and prepared to head
home. It was an unforgettable adventure. I hope that we can
share our next killer whale encounters with you!