10 January 2013

Trapped by the ice

Video footage taken by people in the Quebec village of Inukjuak showed the massive animals thrusting themselves skyward through an opening in the ice as they gasped for air from their blowholes. Locals say about a dozen orcas gathered around the hole — which was slightly bigger than a pickup truck — amid their desperate bid to take in oxygen. Mayor Peter Inukpuk urged the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on Wednesday to send an icebreaker as soon as possible to smash nearby floes to help the mammals reach open water. But Inukpuk told The Canadian Press later in the day that DFO informed him the icebreakers were too far from the area for such a mission.

"Ice entrapment is the main cause of mortality in many species," Ramp said. He said what makes this case unique is that it could be the first sighting of killer whales in the Canadian Arctic in January. Unlike narwhals, belugas and bowheads, orcas are not an ice-loving species, Ramp said, following their prey north during the summer months but retreating before the ice moves in. He said with climate change, it appears the animals are straying further and further north — and perhaps, staying too long.


  1. Comments on the video say that the ice broke up overnight and the whales made it out.

    Odd to think of whales drowning.

  2. Here's a blog that was started to coordinate rescue efforts: http://inukjuakkillerwhale.blogspot.ca/

    It's written by someone who lives in the community near where the whales were trapped, and has confirmation from their scouts that the ice opened up overnight and the whales are gone. They were planning a mission to manually cut up chunks of ice that were threatening to close over the opening in the video, as well as cut another, larger hole a distance away where they could work more safely.

  3. Mel V.: thanks for the update, the situation was dire and I couldn't imagine a dozen whales dying for lack of air.


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