Folks are celebrating in the town of Inukjuk, and marine mammal enthusiasts are ecstatic over news that a large pod of orcas that had been trapped by ice in northern Quebec appear to have achieved freedom.
At least 12 orcas had been confined since Monday to a small breathing hole in a remote portion of Hudson Bay. But on Thursday morning two hunters had discovered that the ice had broken up and the orcas, or killer whales, had vanished.
Extreme tidal movements attributed to a new moon and strong northerly winds were the reason, according to Johnny Williams, a town manager at Inukjuak, which is nearest the site of the drama involving the orcas.
"Everybody's celebrating; we're all in a good mood," Williams said by telephone Thursday morning.
Oceans of Freedom, on its Facebook page, states that pilot named Davidee reported that "the orcas are free of Inukjuak Bay [within Hudson Bay] but still have to get through heavy ice in Hudson Bay."
That's contrary to an NBC report quoting Inukjuak Mayor Petah Inukpuk as saying the orcas had found a path leading all the way to open ocean, about 25 miles away.It's not clear anyone has actually spotted the orcas.
Still, they're perceived at least to have a chance of surviving. Their situation was dire Wednesday, as the distressed mammals were in a fight to keep the breathing hole, about 30 feet wide, from shrinking.
Townsfolk and activists had besieged Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans with pleas for help.
The orcas, or killer whales, could not sleep during their frantic ordeal.
A grassroots rescue effort, involving townsfolk and at least one private company, had planned to use chainsaws and other machinery to try to free the orcas Thursday.
Williams said winds, which increased to 30 mph by about 10 p.m. Wednesday night, also broke up the ice along the shore of Inukjuak, which is located about 30 miles from where the orcas had been.