Determined to get remarkable close-up footage of orca whales – otherwise known as killer whales – wildlife filmmaker Patrick Dykstra knew there was only one thing for it: get in the freezing water of the Norwegian fjords and swim with them!
Patrick, 36, was joined by German orca expert Marco Schulenburg, who spends six months a year following pod migrations.
The pair observed more than 100 killer whales, in family groups of five to ten, playing, communicating and feeding on herring. But how did they manage to gain the giants’ trust to enable them to get so close?
‘Orcas are incredibly smart, and so if you just jump in the water, they will leave,’ says Patrick. ‘Marco and I take a lot of time with each family pod to allow them to get used to our presence before we attempt to enter the water with them… This results in the best experience with them.’
As well as getting up close and personal with the orcas, Patrick was also able to film them from the sky, using a drone, gaining incredible footage from angles that have rarely been filmed.
‘The orcas showed a curiosity about the drone,’ says Patrick, ‘and would often approach it and pop up and look at it.’
The conditions for filming are challenging, to say the least, as Patrick explains: ‘You are dealing with a dark animal, in dark water, often moving fast, so that is everything a photographer or filmmaker does not want… The orcas also chose to congregate in the high Arctic in the winter, which means potentially rough seas and cold weather, as well as very short days.
‘Towards the end of our trip, the sun was only up for about two hours each day because the polar winter was closing in.’
All of which makes the astounding footage all the more remarkable.