Leader of the Pod

Being in the water with orcas in the seven degC fjords around Skjervøy, Norway is unlike any other photographic environment I have ever found myself in.

Simply getting in and out of our boat in restrictive dry suits, heavy weight belts and then working with heavy cameras is taking its toll leaving me wishing I was significantly fitter than I thought I was. Still though, to quote my high school math teacher, “effort brings reward”, this is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and worth every effort needed.

All our encounters so far have been brief but we are starting to understand a little about the behaviors of orca who are amazingly social creatures that rely on strong family bonds and strategic co-operation to survive.

The leader of the Pod is the matriarch who will raise her calves, train them, discipline them and maintain the family cohesion of her pod. The larger males with their impressive vertical dorsal fin fulfill their role in strategic hunting and in visiting other pods to provide a genetically distant breeding male then returning back to their own family pod again.

This brief encounter in the dim evening light shows a large female in the foreground, probably the matriarch, two other females mid water, while the two at the surface are likely to be males. This is a very typical orca family unit here.

I am so looking forward to getting back in the water with these beautiful creatures and the required effort will only make me stronger.

Photo: Robert Rath, ‘Leader of the Pod’, 1/320s f/2.8 ISO10000 16mm

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