Are Those Killer Whales Actually Free?

The whales are near Inukjuak. Check out how far Inukjuak is from the open North Atlantic
It's a long, long way to freedom

A few days ago, on the eastern shore of the Hudson Bay near Inukjuak, Quebec, a pod of stranded killer whales gathered around a single hole in the otherwise solid ice in a desperate bid to breathe. Inukjuak is about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) north of Montreal and a long, long way from the open North Atlantic where they should be.

It's hard to grasp how distressed they appear from these photos, the video is far more wrenching. To see a video click here. They seem to have taken turns bobbing high out of the water (It's called spyhopping and it's how they analyse what's happening above the water) or coming up for air and then diving without really breaking the surface. The two examples are seen in the photo above. Killer whales can stay underwater for about 20 minutes. The fact that they were constantly taking turns bobbing and breathing makes me feel like they were panicking. It's almost palpable in the video I can't imagine how it must have felt to be there in person. 

Some said the hole appeared to be shrinking in the freezing temperatures. It was difficult to get close to the Orcas because the ice was very thin in the area surrounding the breathing hole. A grim outcome seemed inevitable.

But lo! Happy days are suddenly upon us because reporters are saying, the wind responsible for shifting the ice against the whales, miraculously turned and shifted it away from them and opened up a path in the ice approximately 500 metres wide and five kilometres long. This brought the unlucky pod of whales a minuscule five kilometers closer to the North Atlantic. The problem is that they had 995 more kilometers of frozen water between them and freedom. There are some references about the entire Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait opening up. If this is reality, please tell me because I haven't been able to find an update.

It's easy to sit here in our warm houses and ask why nothing was done to help 12 whales to safety. Yes it's sad, they're beautiful animals and we're partially to blame because the water in Hudson Bay should have been frozen solid. As of Christmas there was still open water. So, they were caught unaware by a clear sign of global warming - open water, in the Arctic, in winter.

But isn't it necessary for a species' survival to acquire the ability to adapt to changes in the environment? The planet is losing creatures to extinction at an alarming rate and so many of the reasons point to human's interference and crowding out of their natural habitat. Is that the way things were supposed to play out? Is our contribution to the extinction rates part of our evolutionary process? Or theirs? What has to change to slow this train down? Too much, I'm afraid.

Maybe it's time to consider alien overlords? What am I saying? Aliens are always superior in intellect and (what's the opposite of "puny"?) gigantic in size. Aliens always think we're arrogant. They'd exploit us the way we're exploiting every resource with which this planet has been endowed.

Let's hope the wind continues to favour the whales and they are able to swim from one open water patch to the next open water patch until they are free. The news minds have decided to play this as a happy ending. The best case scenario is the weather conditions will hold with the water remaining open and they'll get out. This is very unrealistic considering it's the middle of winter in the Arctic. The odds are stacked against them surviving and the fact is we'll never know for sure if they do and I can't really call that a happy ending.

Whenever a movie ends, leaving us to form our own conclusion about whether it was a sad or happy ending - do we really know for sure if Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid were killed at the end? Do we really know if Shepherd survived the Citadel exploding? No! - I always choose the happy ending, but I don't believe in a happy ending for this story.


Angie said...

I was thinking the same thoughts. It seemed very quick and convenient that all of the sudden...BOOM, the wind shifted and the ice parted and away they went. I think the government didn't want every green agency breathing down their necks because they hadn't "done something". I'm not sure whether it's right or wrong to interfere with nature, but watching those videos is heartbreaking and I would have a hard time sitting back and watching them die a death as nature intended.

Frimmy said...

A lot of people feel that icebreakers should have been sent in to free the pod. They cite the rescue of three grey whales in the Bering Strait near Barrow, Alaska in 1988 where, in a show of international cooperation, Russia and the US worked together and saved the whales.

First, there were no ice breakers anywhere near these whales. Second, do any of these people realize how far inland this bay is? Navigating Hudson Strait (or any of the Northwest passages) plus Hudson Bay is a thousand kilometers of solid ice. Comparing the Bering Strait rescue with this is apples and oranges.

People were also saying to air lift them. How long would twelve whales last, out of water, in freezing temperatures over land to open water when Hudson Bay is in the middle of Canada? (Canada is big). The cost involved in attempting this rescue would be unfathomable and there's no guarantee the whales would survive it.

Nobody wants to see these whales die but it's too easy to say the powers that be should do this thing or that thing without thinking through or researching to ensure their suggestion is feasible in the first place.

Pilot whales are notorious for beaching themselves. Other whales beach themselves. Mammals, aquatic or otherwise, get caught like this every year.

None of this makes any difference when you see the whale video. I know I would try anything I could to help them and be heart broken that I can't. It is disturbing that global warming is probably responsible for this situation to start with.

There was no good answer for this one and letting nature take its course and hoping for the best is the least of all the evils only because nature always takes its course whether we interfere or not.


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