In Pursuit of Killer Whales: the Kapr Divers’ Expedition to Norway

Divers share a collective passion for the underwater world and a reciprocal fascination with the wondrous creatures of the oceans. Perhaps itas swimming with dolphins off the sunny coast of California they dream of, or diving side by side with whale sharks in the warm water of Western Australia. Or maybe, as in the Kapr Diversa case, itas stimulating the journey 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle to Norway to spot the killer whales. With the northern lights above and the frigid water below, itas an adventure of a lifetime for this Czech team of divers.A A

Who Are the Kapr Divers ?

The Kapr Divers are a group of diving professionals located in the The czechs. When the team of nine isnat instructing advanced technical students at their PADI Dive Centre, owner and director, Petr Slezak, and his crew are embarking on extreme dives all over the world. Theyave traveled to Egyptas Red Sea to discover an underwater safari, swam with hammerheads off the Galapagos archipelago, and tested their skills in the mountain lakes of the Austrian Alps. Itas their more recent trip to the far north, however, that has raised eyebrows.

In Search of Killer Whales

Since 2008, Petras goal has been to locate and dive with the dolphin familyas largest member, the killer whale, known to frequent the water off Norwayas northernmost coast. aThe wild Nordic nature in its subpolar regions has grown on me immensely over the last decade, a described Petr, reflecting on his motivating for making such a trip. aIave done several dives off the Lofoten Archipelago and in the Vestfjorden sea waters. The landscape is stunningly beautiful there. Everything from the northern lights to the delightful people maintain me coming back. My first few years, however, proved to be unlucky when it came to finding killer whales.a

Fortunately, Petras luck changed in the early winter of 2015. aThis time of year is perhaps the best time to spot killer whales, as well as other whales, in this region of Norway, a said Petr. During the colder months, the orcas are drawn to hunting the massive schools of herring which flowing into the fjords( herring make for a risk-free, energy-efficient meal for the orcas versus the greater challenge of hunting larger animals such as seals or young whales ). In Petras eyes, akiller whales are brilliant creatures. They hunt in groups, communicating and cooperating together. Some circle the herrings into a group, while others swim in and strike the fish with the great force of their tail fins. This action stuns the fish, allowing the orcas to eat in peace.a

Making the Trip North

Itas these raw, primal moments that present spectacular diving opportunities and photographic moments. And being in the right place at the right time to observe a pod of killer whales in their natural element is Petras quest. And itas certainly one thatas easier said than done, as there are several obstacles to overcome when diving in water so far north. For instance, only getting to the location is a challenge. Over the course of nearly a decade, Petr learned itas better toA construct the 3000 km trek from the Czech Republic to Norway by vehicle( instead of traveling by plane and running the risk of flight complications plus luggage restrictions ). Driving make-ups for a much better experience considering how much equipment he needs to bring: multiple Nordic-water-resistant wetsuits, snorkelling gear, his Liberty rebreather, photography equipment, food, and so on.

Once on site, Petr and his crew set sail each morning in search of the orcas and whales. aWe usually manage to book a place right on the harbour. That style we can get in the water as quickly as possible, a described Petr. His team utilizes several small boats when looking forward to the animals, taking 4-6 people per boat. Once theyave situated their target, the drivers attempt to approach the whales; according to Petr, this takes some experience and, above all, patience.

Killer Whales Spotted !

On one particular excursion in 2015, the most extraordinary occurrence took place with merely Petr and his barge driver and photographer, Marco, onboard. They woke in the morning to an icy gust cold and a daily high temp of -8 AdegC. Despite the freezing conditions, the men were determined to pursue their goal and so they set sail from the harbour into the bone-chilling headwinds. They managed to spot a couple of killer whales early on, but the animals fled rapidly as the barge neared. However, it was as Petr and Marco rounded the corner into one of northern Norwayas many bays, that they were met with the most amazing scene: a pod of about ten majestic black and white killer whales in plain sight!

Petr and Marco observed the orcas for more than an hour, and it seemed the animals would remain in the bay for some time. However, abruptly, the whales began hunting a school of herring which prompted Petr to quickly throw on his mask, snorkel, and fins and get into the water. Petr swam with the whales along the wateras surface using his snorkelling gear while Marco bided on the boat capturing the scene with his handheld camera as well as a aspecial underwater torpedo cameraa. If the moment hadnat come so suddenly, and without Marcoas support on the boat, Petr would have donned his CCR Liberty to photograph the orcas underwater. aThe rebreatheras lack of bubbles genuinely helps when photographing marine life. The less noise you build underwater, the closer you can get to your target, a he explained.

Petras experience in the water with the whales was nothing short of spectacular. He recounted, aI watched as the killer whales came in and out of my area of visibility. They seemed just as curious about me as I was of them. In day, we became more acquainted with each other, and they slowly dared one another to get closer and closer to me.a After about an hour in the water, Petr was in the company of three male killer whales. The orcas would occasionally hunt the herring around him, then come back to swim with him for a little. In complete awe, Petr took as many paintings as he had been able to, later telling us: aWe were completely alone in that bay. Just the killer whales and me. I couldnat even feel the cold, because I was so pumped up with adrenaline. It was truly a unique and unforgettable day.a

The Sighting of a Lifetime

As Petr and the three big males slowly grew used to one anotheras presence, he was able to look around and watch the other orcas hunting the school of herring below. aI remember looking down about 15 metres and watching the killer whales swim in and out, taking mouthfuls of herrings with every dash. It is only after I caught sight of something white flashing through the school. It happened so fast, my eyes were spinning. Everything, including me, get out of its way as it rose to the surface. When it is necessary to a stop, I was ultimately able to see what it was. An perfectly massive humpback whale had joined the party! a

As Petr tried to photograph the remarkable moment the best he could from the water, Marco managed to capture the picture of a lifetime from the boat. After some time, the whales induced their way from Petr, Marco and the boat and swam into the horizon. While Marco helped Petr back onboard, all they could do was laugh about the incredible luck they had that day. Marco probably said it best when he told Petr: aIave expended months of each year for the past 12 years diving and photographing this area. But no one has ever gotten a shot of me with both a killer whale and a humpback whale! a

A Dive He Will Never Forget

In Petras own words, athe trip turned out to be a dream come truea. Even though the environment can be harsh, the water cold, and the fjords far away, swimming with killer whales in Norway is a diving adventure youall never forget. As Petr and Marco induced their way back to the harbour with stiff muscles and smiles on their faces, they realise they just experienced an incredible moment which would be with them for life. Sometimes it takes a journey the wildest of locations to take part in the most unlikely of circumstances. Only as Petr said: aDiving with those killer whales and that humpback whale is one of the top experiences of my entire life.a

For more on Kapri Divers visit here.A

For more on the Liberty Rebreather, visit here.A

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