At the appointed time (11am), the boat’s engines revved and we gently eased away from the dockside. We were on our way. The first sighting was not of whales but bird life. Puffins were seen stuttering and staggering above the choppy sea whilst gulls gracefully glided before torpedoing into the icy water. A little further and what we initially thought were more puffins, on closer inspection we discovered were razorbills. What a great start as the boat paused to allow a closer and more detailed look at the antics of this superb bird-life.
A revving of the engines and we lurch off into open sea in pursuit of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Whilst watching the choppy seas through the lounge window we speculate that the great Blue Whale may not be seen, as we understood that they were currently in pay negotiations to restore their differentials with the more prolific Minke whales. And then the siren sounds and the captain announces that the Orca (killer Whale) has been spotted. There’s frantic activity in the lounge area as people put on their waterproof coats, grab videos and cameras and stagger to the open deck. The wind grabs your breath and it’s really hard walking in a straight line as the catamaran bounces across the sea, but we all make it to the front and survey the open seas. "Whale at 3 o’clock!" announces the tannoy – damn, missed it. "12 o’clock" – missed it again. I’m frantically watching the water through my camera lens and then with broad sweeps of the head. "10 o’clock," the captain calmly announces – this time I notice a splash of water as a whale once again eludes me.
I’m just beginning to think I’ll never see a whale in its natural habitat when a duo surfaces very close to the boat – this two I’ve spotted before the captain has announced it – but in a jiffy they’re submerged again. The captain points out the large "footprints" that mark the surface where the whale has been and then it’s clear that we’re in the middle of a "family" group. The Orca whales are proudly breaking through the surface, "spouting off" and returning to the deep. It’s a sensational experience as these 10-metre long 9-ton mammals swim alongside the catamaran, seemingly playing with us and each other. Magical.
July 1, 2005
From journal Olafsvik - The Whale-Watching Capital