|Half of Nome turned out to watch|
Within minutes the majority of our staff members were packed into the vehicle and I found myself behind the wheel driving towards a huge line of cars pulled over on the side of the road just outside of town. “THERE IT IS!” someone said, and I pulled over behind the line.
|The first sighting|
After a few tense moments, I spotted them myself: long, thin dorsal fins dipping up out of the water and then back down again. “Are those…??” We held our breath before they came up a second time, afraid to believe our eyes.
|Orcas offshore of Nome|
“Oh my god those are orcas!” my coworker confirmed our suspicions as cameras clicked wildly away. Orcas, indeed, and a pod of about 10 of them!
|Orca surfacing for air|
As they moved further and further away, the crowd seemed to gather further down the beach. More whales? Yes! But not orcas.
|Grey whales stuck on a shallow sandbar|
|Grey whale fluke|
It was an incredible sight to see something that large, so close, and to realize it was part of nature in action, the violent predator-prey relationship between separate cetacean species that few people ever witness. A total National Geographic moment unfolding before our eyes! The orcas circled the sound a couple times, but eventually gave up and moved back out to sea. By the time I left, the grey whales had also managed to move themselves back out into deeper water.
The stories on the street throughout the whole ordeal were pretty interesting. Some people were anticipating the grey whales would die so they could harvest the meat. A lot of miners had come in to watch from shore, reporting the orcas had swum by their dredges and scared them out of the water (I don’t blame them!). A ton of videographers were there as well, probably from Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, having heard the news while filming for other shows in the area. Word of the event even made it all the way to Anchorage and was reported on nightly news.
Although orca populations are known to exist in the Bering Sea, from what I can tell, it is extremely rare for them to show up in Norton Sound, especially this far north. And to see them actively hunting was absolutely unreal.
It’s one of those days that makes me feel so lucky to be here and alive and experiencing the wonders of the natural world firsthand.