Nothing could have prepared me for my time in Norway.
Even while I was there the immensity of the collective experiences seemed to elude me amid the extraordinary moments, the waiting between them and even the, albeit very brief, miserable ones.
With more than thirty hours of travel on my own from Adelaide to Tromsø I had plenty of time to worry if this experience was going to be everything I imagined it to be. I was worried I would not be fit enough for my time out on the water. I was worried my equipment would not be good enough. I was worried we would not find orca and I was worried I’d come home with an experience somewhat less than the one I imagined. Oh how I worried in vain as nothing could have prepared me for the amazing days which followed.
When I arrived in Tromsø I had the warmest welcome from old friends Darren, Jasmine, Pasi and Ali and began meeting the rest of the team for our arctic adventure. That evening Norway welcomed us all with an extraordinary light show of emerald green veils dancing across the night sky. Not once in my planning had I even anticipated seeing this wonder of the arctic which took away the chill of the icy wind as we all reveled in its beauty.
The next day in Skjervøy we found orca, hundreds of orca and tens of humpback whales. It was like nothing I imagined. This was their home for the winter and I felt so privileged and humbled being here with them in such a beautiful place.
Over the days which which followed we had countless incredible moments swimming with orca and swimming with the humpback whales. We floated over undersea rivers of Norwegian herring come here to spawn. In the evenings we shared our stories from each day. We learned about orcas around the world and their behaviors both in the wild and in captivity. We worked on and shared our images. We reveled in the northern lights on the clear nights and we slept soundly after very physical days out on the water. And, we made new friends.
Over eight days together on the boat Ostee Star I got to know Peggy and Torben, who fed us and kept the boat running smoothly and Krisztina and Norbi who taught us about the orca and guided us out on the water. My old friend Pasi made the perfect cabin companion being tolerant to my late nights. I made new friends with Chuta with his infectious laughter, Sonya and her gentle way, with Carra and her photographic enthusiasm, Elvira and her quiet nature and with Kei and his generosity. I can honestly say that by the end of the trip I loved being with every one of these beautiful people and was sad saying goodbye to them as much as to Norway when it was time to come home.
I need to especially thank Darren and Jasmine who created and ran this tour. You guys are amazing having put together an experience I will forever cherish. Thank you both. Last but not least, thank you Ali for keeping us safe out on the water and dropping us into the ocean for those amazing whale experiences.
This trip has been a treasure of experiences I never imaged and will never forget. I am both humbled and grateful such and extraordinary opportunity has come my way. Thank you to every one of you who helped create this experience of a lifetime.
Photo: Robert Rath, ‘Norwegian Gold’, 1/400s f/2.8 ISO125 35mm