Orcas in Iceland: The beginning of something magical

Jul 09, 2018 by afdadmin
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By Steve Kavakos: Iceland Explorer at large @stevechristopher__

Image by: Discover the World

My name is Steve Kavakos and I am not a marine biologist. I simply have a love for the ocean and more specifically, orcas. As a child I watched videos, read many books and hunted the internet for information about these fascinating animals. Now that I’m older it’s clear orcas need ‘everyday people’ more than ever. If they are to continue their long-lasting reign in the ocean we need to remove the only real obstacle in their way – us.

And to ensure their survival, we need to know who they are. Not the unfortunate test subjects people see at theme parks, but the animals from legends spanning back to our earliest years. The odd stories from local fishermen, the animals who have families like you and I. They are who we need to know and understand.

This month, I will be writing about my time with wild orcas in Iceland. I will be sharing my journey and the inspiring photos I take along the way. There’s so much to know about orcas, far more than scientific stats.

While many of us know about the plight of orcas in captivity, there is very little information about their behaviour in the wild. Documentaries seem to focus on their famous hunting patterns and their mystifying ability to impress us in the air. Very few actually place what we know about them in a context we can all understand and absorb. And that’s where I hope I’ll be able to help.

Image: Iceland Unlimited

Orcinus Orcas are known around the world as ‘Killer Whales’. But these animals aren’t whales, they are dolphins. They are in fact the largest member of the dolphin family.

Humans have been in existence around 200,000 years but orcas have been an apex predator of the ocean for over 60 million years.

Bottle-nose dolphins are reported to sing and whistle over the top of one another. Orcas, however, wait for the other to finish. They listen and then speak back. There’s even reason to believe orcas may be the closest animal on the planet to achieving cross-species communication with humans.

Like a computer making noises, transferring information we can’t understand, orca calls and songs are said to hide chunks of meaningful words. There’s hope that one day we will decipher these whistles and songs, revealing meaning and understanding. But perhaps what is most impressive about orcas is the part of the brain they possess that humans are missing – a part of the brain totally dedicated to empathy.

Very soon, I will be sharing a boat with marine biologists and learning about wild orca in Iceland and the (mostly) human-made issues they currently face.

I hope to shed some light on these intriguing and often misunderstood animals. And I’m really excited to share my experience with you over the coming weeks.

Author, Steve Kavakos.