mandag 10. februar 2014

An amazing week of whale-watching!

Two weeks ago I went to Andenes to photograph whales. Andfjord - the wide fjord between Andøy and Senja - has become a major hotspot for whales in mid-winter. The reason is the herring; the huge population of Norwegian Spring-spawning Herring has gradually changed its migration routes, and now spend much of the winter close to the coast of Troms and northern Nordland county, and after them follow the whales.
Our two first days at sea where not the best; on Monday the whales was quite far out win the fjord. We did see quite a few animals - even a couple of Sperm Whales among the regular Killer, Humpback and Fin Whales. But they where spread all over the fjord and there where no feeding situations or good photo opportunities.
On Tuesday the easterly wind was too sharp to go out at all on Andfjord at all, and the whales was still reported far out in the fjord.
But then – on Wednesday – it all broke loose! Several pods of Killer Whales where feeding on herring close to the shore right outside Andenes, and we got some great close encounters.
Thursday was another good day, with plenty of whales, but not as concentrated and busy feeding as the day before. The moment of the day was definitely a group of seven fin whales that passed our little Zodiac on very close distance. These over twenty meter long torpedo shaped creatures swim with a speed you can hardly imagine!
Friday was definitely the Humpback day! Everywhere I turned my head there where blows and tails lifting and every now and then an enormous pectoral fin waving in the air. The Humpbacks often feed on herring side by side with Killer Whales, and this is quite unique and not described from any other waters. And it is actually the Killer Whales that do the hard work, and when they have herded the herring school together, the Humpback will come in from nowhere and just suddenly break the surface, head first and mouth wide open, filling the enormous mouth with herring. We where hanging around until the sun dropped behind the mountains in southwest – painting everything in a reddish yellow glow. And we had our last close encounters right outside the Andenes harbor!
Saturday was our last day at sea, and again it was a Killer Whale-day, accompanied by the regular Humpbacks coming in to steel their food.
After many years of whale-watching I can hardly recall anything that come close to these days at sea in Andfjord – it was just the most awesome week!

Two male Killer Whales
Pod of Killer Whales

Fin Whale 

Fin Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback fluke

Humpback fluke

Humback Whale

Surfacing Killer Whale 

An unusual photo showing interaction between Humpback
and Killer Whales!

Humpack with a mouthful! It missed four...
Happy Humpback enjoying a meal

Humpback fluke

In lack of an elk in sunset...
Killer Whale eating herring

Humpback portrait

Killer Whale portrait

Male Killer Whale 

Humpback - right outside Andenes harbor