Northern Tales

In case you missed "Northern Tales", the three-part serie I have been writing for the PADI blog, or simply want to read it again, below are all the three parts!

A serie where I bring you along on our sail- and dive adventure north towards Northern Norway, describing our fascinating encounters with the Spiny dogfish, the Ghost shark and last but not the least, the Orcas... :-)

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2017!!

A new year with more adventures, hoping to also see you there :-)


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Winter Above The Arctic Circle

Tromsø, Northern Norway 14/12-2016

The weeks have been passing by very quickly since we first arrived Troms here in Northern Norway in the end of October.

From rather bright autum days, the scenery surrounding us soon developes into a more winter like environment. The days quickly get both shorter and darker, but still stays so amazingly colourful.

Below are some random pics from our recent weeks...

There is no better place in the world to watch orcas than in their right environment. That is out at sea where they are wild and free! No wild animals should ever be kept in the cruel world of captivity.

Out at sea we often encounter curious orcas, giving us a real show on their own terms :-) These animals would never be as healthy and joyful if they would be captured in a small tank.

Northern Norway truly is a paradise in many, many ways. In addition to my immense passion for its stunning fjords and diverse underwater life, I also have a great fascination for the many breathtaking mountains in the area. So many peaks waiting for me to hike!

As we are here to film the whales we have, so far, only made some few hikes up the small mountain on Vengsøy island. Even from here we often see the whales in distance. This sight obviously feeds my already strong urge to soon get in the water again ;-)

The weather has recently had a very shifting mood, specially here at the coast. The dark clouds generously offer everything between rain, hail and snow, and with the precipitation there is a new look to the entire surrounding, including our boat...

Sometimes, we take the inflatable instead of going out with the sailing boat. This allows us to navigate in the shallows where the orcas also can be seen hunting.

As I snorkel with the whales without lamps, the shallower sandy bottom gives a welcoming touch of brightness in the otherwise rather dark underwater environment.

One might wonder why a cold  face like this still smiles with so much excitement  ;-)

The following couple of pics easily say it all...

Gentle guys like this I only meet underwater ;-) This time we meet in a shallow bay where he is hunting herring together with his pod. The animal´s powerful movements quickly stir up the sandy bottom which gives the underwater scenario a very special ambience.

Without any unnecessary moves, I silently stay where I am just beneath the surface, leaving the decision to the orcas whether they want to approach me or not.

This male orca seems to be the most curious among his friends as he is the one coming back to me over and over again to have an even closer look. For each turn he makes the closer he gets, each time with a yummy herring in his mouth!

After an encounter like this, it truly is hard not to be exploding of overwhelming happiness!! ;-)

Impressive amounts of whales surrounded by the most breathtaking fjord scenery, is reason enough to admit that you truly are in Wonderland. Yet again, there is even more to admire here...

During clear nights there is often more than the beloved stars to observe and get fascinated about. When the darkness has arrived, it is therefore time to keep an eye on the sky...

Yes!! There it is, the northern light! :-)

Carousel Feeding Orcas


Vengsøy island, County of Troms, Northern Norway, 23/11-2016

Since we arrived Troms in Northern Norway about four weeks ago, I have spent plenty time underwater to film one of the marine species I admire so much. As promised in my last post, here is a blog consisting solely underwater images of these gracious creatures :-)

The orca is a toothed whale, and the biggest member of the dolphin family. These highly social marine mammals normally live together in big, stable family groups, and are found in all oceans, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas.

Sometimes, the orcas are called "the wolves of the sea", as they are compared to hunt in groups like wolf packs. But the most common name for this apex predator is "killer whale".

According to some authors, this name is an old mistranslation of the 18th century Spanish name "asesina de ballenas" which means "whale killer". It is said that the Basque whalers would have given them such name after observing pods of orcas hunting baleen whales.

The orcas are featured in many mythologies and cultures, and have got a wide range of reputation from being the souls of humans to the most merciless killers. In earlier days nobody dared to enter the water if an orca was in sight...

Today we know more about these majestic creatures. They are no merciless killers, but intelligent mammals specialized in different prey.

In the wild, there have not been any injuries or fatal attacks involving humans and orcas. The several incidents we all have heard about are only involving captured orcas, trapped in small tanks where they get abused and forced to make tricks for human entertainment...

I have spent a lot of time in the water with the orcas here in Norway, and have never felt any agressive behaviour from their side. Instead they are very gentle and often quite curious.

What I think is very important though, is (like always) to behave in a calm and respectful manner when visiting these powerful beings.

The orcas hunt a great variety of prey including both fish, cephalopods, seals, sealions, whales, sea birds and sea turtles. They are however specialists, which means that the orca's particular type of prey differs a lot between the different populations. In the waters off Norway, the Norwegian orcas specialize in herring which is their main food source.

The orcas here have adjusted their movement to the herring's new migration routes, which is why there are so many whales currently gathering in the fjords of Troms during the darkest months every year.

The Norwegian orcas use a specific method to efficiently hunt and feed on the herring. To trap the school of fish the whales have developed a special technique  called "carousel feeding".

Below is a brief description and some pictures to show how these elegant marine mammals do to get their lunch! ;-)

Their "carousel feeding" is a cooperative teamwork, where the orcas approach the school of fish in a similar way to sheepdogs herding their flock of sheep :-)

The whales isolate a patch of herring in the deep with the aim to bring it closer to the surface. To do so, the pod of orcas release bubbles and show their white underside of their bodies to round their prey into a tight defensive bait ball.

When this is achieved, the orcas slap the edge of the ball with their tails (tail-slapping), which numbs or kills up to 10-15 herring with each successful slap. After this, the whales gently starts to eat the herring one by one.

Bon appetit!! :-)

Arriving in Orca land!!


Vengsøy island, County of Troms, Northern Norway, 5/11-2016

Since my last blogpost, when we just had passed the Arctic circle, we have been continuing our voyage north towards our final goal, Troms in Northern Norway.

Such a wonderful feeling it is to finally reach the northern part of Norway, after close to a couple of months on the move with the boat along the Norwegian coast.

When reaching Lofoten islands (three pics bellow) we only have some few day trips left before the real adventure starts!

Troms is the county in Northern Norway where we want to film the great gathering of Orcas and Humpback whales that annually flock to the area in astounding numbers.

The whales started to appear in the fjords of Troms about seven years ago, and have since then been returning during the same period every year. It is the herring the whales are following and the overwintering fish is the reason for the great whale feast happening here during the dark and cold winter months from November to February.

But will they, the herring and the whales, show up again also this year? In nature there are no guaranties...

We find a nice little fishing harbour on Vengsøy island, were we decide to base ourselves for some time. This charming island is situated west of Kvaløya, as well as Tromsø, and is more or less right on the spot where the whales normally use to appear during late October/early November. The gut feeling says this is the place to be to hopefully find some whales soon :-)

The days are getting shorter and colder for every day that passes by. When the long dark nights are clear, the sky often has its own fabulous show, the northern lights!

The mountainous landscape surrounding us is simply breathtaking, and so is the light...

No matter if it is sunny or grey, the ever changing scenario never stop to impress me!

Such amazing scenes both day and night... What else could one be looking for??

Ohh, whales it was!! ;-)

And so it doesn´t take long before we see our first blows in distance...

Big black dorsal fins gracefully cut through the surface. They are Orcas, the biggest member of the dolphin family, reaching a maximum length of 10 meters. How will they react when I go underwater?

The cold bites the naked skin on my face, but I quickly forget this when I suddenly see a huge dark shadow in front of me.

It is a big male Orca curiously swimming towards the little blue dressed snorkeler I am. There are no words enough to describe the feeling when such a majestic creature decides to swim towards you to have a closer look.

Once again, I´m totally overwhelmed. I no longer think about the breathtaking mountain peaks, nor the magic northern lights. Here and now its only me and the grand black whale... I´m back to paradise!

Underwater pics within shortly on the blog :-)