The world under the waves

Among the cold seas, rivers and mountains of Norway, pods of orcas are on a mission.

They fill fjords during the winter, tracking down and feeding on rich supplies of herring that gather there from the Atlantic Ocean.

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For more than 18 months, photographer Audun Rikardsen was on a parallel mission of his own: to capture images of the orca's feeding habits. Using self-made split-level underwater protection for his camera, he captured the moment a determined whale came up against hungry humans.

Racing for dinner

Audun took the photograph in the fjords outside Tromsø in northern Norway, an area also popular with fishermen thanks to the large hauls of herring on offer. The whales are undeterred by the presence of fishing boats, and an uneasy relationship has formed between the two.

Audun explains, “The whales have started following fishing vessels, feeding on herring that slip out from the net.

“In one way, it is a win-win situation for both, because the fishermen can look to the whales to find the herring, and the orcas get their leftovers.

“But it can also create a dangerous situation, mostly for the whales but also the fishermen as the orcas might destroy the fishing gear.”

Difficulties in photography

Audun says, “It is difficult to take split pictures, especially in low-light conditions. It is the light that is the main challenge.

“When the sun is just below the horizon, it makes differences in light intensity even larger than usual. You can easily end up with an overexposed top half of the picture and an underexposed lower half.”

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A habitat for the future

Audun says he is unsure what the future holds for orcas and fishermen on the Norwegian coast.

Orcas face a range of threats in the world’s oceans, including chemical contamination and noise disturbance from ships, hampering their ability to find food.

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He says, "Most fishermen are quite enthusiastic about the whales, and happy to interact with them, and often spend time looking for them.

"However, the whales can become trapped in nets or accidentally destroy the fishing gear. Of course, some fishermen can also become quite frustrated. In those cases the fishermen may approach the government, calling for action.

"It’s a difficult situation because in my opinion both the whales and the fishermen are there in their own right. The fishermen need to make a living and the whales need to eat.

"This is an issue the government may need to address, and it needs scientific study to find methods that reduce the risk for both parties."

For more of his work, please visit http://www.audunrikardsen.com/


(All photographs by Audun Rikardsen.)


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