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Magnus Lundgren – Lofoten, Norway I

February 10th, 2009 Posted in Northern Europe, Uncategorized

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magnusL_portraitFlying in over Lofoten, coming from Bodö, is natural drama in its true sense. The coastline is seriously spectacular and dramatic. Seeing it from a small and rattling airplane in the soft afternoon light I just could not not stop smiling. Quite desperately I tried to photograph through a tiny, foggy and scratched airplane window while the stewardess kept telling me ”Would you please sit down!” I felt a bit ridicoulus there but could not help myself.

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Arriving in Svolvaer in Lofoten I sensed a genuine arctic feeling greeting me. The massive mountain backdrop in crispy visibility was adding to a very exotic flavour. A small international group of people started to gather this day on the expedition boat “Sula” in the harbour for an Orca adventure. Olav Magne was going to lead this crowd into the wild to find one of nature’s wild wonders with captial W. We were counting in a Norwegian couple, three Swedes, two Australians, two Brits, one Frenchman and an American and finally, very late at night, a Kiwi arrived with a bottle of whiskey under his arm.

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We all shared the same passion - to meet the Orcas in the sea. The weather was good and promising. We headed east from Svolvaer as the Orcas were last seen over there. A whole day passed. I imagined Orcas breaking the surface many times but for real I saw nothing but a stunning coastline in a distance from a rocking boat. Maybe tomorrow…

What are we looking for? The killer whale, Orcinus orca, is the most wide-ranging mammal on earth. It is big and the most powerful predator of Mother Nature, version today. Many times described as the apex predator of the marine world. A male can weigh up to 5 tons measuring 6 metres in length. These animals have a very varied diet and some populations are specialised on fish. Like the orcas in Norway that are specialised on herring.

A fairly new Wild Wonder of Europe! The Norwegian Orca story around Lofoten started in the mid 80’s so it is a pretty modern event. The orcas decided to follow the herring when they decided to go into Vestfjorden, Ofoten and Tysfjorden to spend winter in the deep. At peak season it was estimated to be 600 - 700 orcas in Vestfjorden between October and January. So this has been going on now for more than 20 years but then last season, 2007 - 2008, was a big failure. Not much herring and therefore very few Orcas actually went into Vestfjorden. So I knew it was a bit of a gamble to go, bearing in mind last season, but it was worth it to give it a try.

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Day 2 arrived and we kept going from dawn until dusk cruising with the big boat, but also searching with the small and fast aluminium boat. Nothing happened. Nobody home. Nothing to be seen. My plan to spend every evening diving to photograph the interesting marine life around Lofoten (more on that in the next blog) kept my spirit high. The weather on day three pushed us into a harbour and I decided to do a wreck dive while Olav was fueling up the big ship. Returning to the surface I could not tell if the captain was excited or angry. He was bouncing up and down in the boat. His mouth was moving and when I opened my hood a fraction I heard him screaming ”Orcas!”

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Everybody acted like a well-trained ”fire brigade” on board the big ship and before we knew it we were going in a full speedboat flying over the waves. That afternoon we drove very far but nothing to be seen and we ended up on a quay in the dark waiting for the mother ship to catch up. No Orcas, yet.
Desperation was over us, at least over me. Everybody around the fjord seemed to be looking for the herring. The cormorants were on a stake out, looking-looking. The sea gulls were swarming around in the harbour shouting out the message. No herring yet! The fisherman was definitly looking around. Even a Russian ship was there looking for herring, and ultimately the Orcas.

Ultimately the last day was in front of me. We had half a day before going back to Svolvaer. A last minute call came – and we got our second Orca alert for the week. Again ”fire brigade” procedure and off we went into the greyish weather. And finally, pretty close to the entrance of Tysfjorden, we met a pod of Orcas. They were wary and stayed at a distance but still they were there. I was smiling. Their presence fitted so well into the fjordland scenery and of course they are very much the guys in control. They kept their distance but for a brief 20 seconds two big adults came swimming close to the boat.

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It was like a movie in “super-fast-slow-motion” mode. They were there, then they were not there and I was left with a sense of illusionary happiness. That was the moment of the week and now it was time to go home. So there were a few Orcas but the theory was that the herring changed pattern and are spending the winter further up north and most of the orcas are belived to be there close to their prey.

Today, 2009-02-04, I got a report from Olav that the herring is travelling south and is currently around Möre close to the coastline right now. The Norwegian spring spawning herring is the largest stock of herring in the world and they are heading for the greatest erotic adventure in the world: the spawning in February and March. The Orcas are following the herring heading south and Olav reported up to 50 orcas in one day around the boat. I will go out on “Sula” again on the 7th of February. Wish me the best of luck. Maybe it is time for action.

Next blog coming soon about exotic and surprising marine life around Lofoten!

Magnus Lundgren / Wild Wonders of Europe


Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.

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  1. 12 Responses to “Magnus Lundgren – Lofoten, Norway I”

  2. By Marko Wramén on Feb 11, 2009

    Interesting story and beautiful photos. As Always.
    Remember when we were filming and taking photos of the orcas underwater? That was exhilarating. Freediving with “killer whales” is a memorable activity.

  3. By Stefan Beskow on Feb 11, 2009

    Interesting reading! I really wish you luck with the Orcas, wish I could join!

  4. By Mikael Hadell AAF on Feb 11, 2009

    Dear Magnus

    Having followed your Wild Wonders of Europe expeditions - you and the other photographers - have opened my eyes to all the amazing adventures just waiting to be explored here in Europe. For me that is the deepest impact of all the really good stuff you all have been offering me - both stills and text.
    As an independent film-maker I truly appreciate all these new angles you are providing.

  5. By Salva on Feb 11, 2009

    Very well written poetic story. Bad luck you missed those spendid creatures this time. Several years ago we were there together in the same fjord. And Orcas were plenty. My back is still aching for the number of times we had to jump from the Zodiac and climb back, just to see the creatures disappearing in the deep. At least this time you saved your back! That place is the paradise

  6. By Magnus Persson on Feb 11, 2009

    Very nice scenery! I can’t wait for the underwater pictures! I agree with Marko, swiming around in waters full of herring “left-overs” and killer whales is a memory for life!

  7. By francesco on Feb 11, 2009

    Ciao Magnus,
    for a moment I thought that you were writing about the wonderful trip we had in winter 2003 to Narvik and Lofoten. Then I saw the list of buddies and there was no mention of two Italians. And, as Salva writes, in that occasion we saw quite many Orcas (at least on surface). Best fishes (better, Orcas).

  8. By Jan Gunnar Furuly on Feb 12, 2009

    No wonder you did not see much killer whales! Very few operators of orca safaris will tell you this openly, but the orca’s have for several years now changed their migrating pattern. Reason for this is cahnge in the migrating pattern for their food: Herring.

    If you want to find orca’s you better search near the red dots in this map:
    http://www.sildelaget.no/Map.aspx

    Only small groups of orca’s are still in Ofoten/Vestfjorden.

    See article from Aftenposten here: http://www.aftenposten.no/reise/article2837341.ece

    Good luck!

  9. By Anders on Feb 12, 2009

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m very greatful that you’re sending the link to your blog. Can’t wait to read and see more. I too wish I could be there! Your brother from another mother.

  10. By caitlin on Feb 19, 2009

    Waw.
    Truly amazing, wonderfull.
    I was so lucky to be able to visit the Lofoten during the summer of 2002…
    Yes, too long ago.
    Can’t wait to see more!
    Caitlin, Belgium

  11. By colleen nacson on Feb 20, 2009

    a very good description and photos to match…. almost feel like i am there. looking forward to seeing the next installment. good luck.
    colleen.

  12. By Rebecca on Sep 14, 2009

    Mmm, Du fick sett dem…stegvis är det väl rätt inställnig? Wow, vilken härlig bild med måsarna! Den skulle vara fin på ena väggen hemma(hos mig). Fortsätt fotografera Magnus!
    Rebecca.

  13. By Jakob Bertel on May 31, 2010

    I had the pleasure to enjy these incredibly turquoise beaches, too! Just amazing, for a place so far north! Anyone with a sense for the dramatic and romantic landscapes of the Earth should take a closer look to the area!

    Some travel tips are summarized in my blog:
    http://abc4trip.eu/lofoten-islands-norway/

    Thanks for the photos!

    J K

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