The situation is increasingly grim for a large pod of orcas trapped by ice in Hudson Bay in northern Quebec, near the Village of Inukjuak. At least 12 and as many as 20 orcas have been in a struggle for survival since at least Monday, trying to keep a small area free of ice so they can breathe.
Their breathing hole, about the size of a large truck, is slowly shrinking in the bitter-cold temperatures, and there was concern Wednesday that the orcas will not last through the night.
Marine mammal groups and activists have spent the past two days spreading the news and trying to persuade Canada to launch some sort of rescue effort, but as of late Wednesday all that was known for sure was that Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans was going to perform a flyover in the remote region Thursday morning.
I asked the DFO whether rumors were true about possible assistance from a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, but was told that the agency was not aware of any such possible assistance.
On Wednesday, Inukjuak Mayor Petah Inukpuk told the Star that icebreakers were too far south and "out of reach."
"That is the only solution for any chance of survival for those killer whales, but there is none nearby at the moment," Petah said.
There are unconfirmed reports that a private company is trying to get heavy equipment to the area in the hope that it could help widen the breathing space and prevent the orcas from further panicking.
The orcas, which include mostly females and some young orcas, have spent the past two days trying desperately to keep the hole free of ice. They appear distressed and probably are weakening.
Of the video posted above, killer whale researcher Alisa Schulman-Janiger states: "If you watch the video you can see the larger orcas are spy-hopping aggressively to keep the hole open, while the smaller ones are just surfacing to breathe. They're hyperventilating and can't go on like that forever."
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