30th September 2016
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Orca encounter at Sandsound

A pod of Orcas provided a thrilling spectacle when they came within a few metres of a small boat in Sandsound on Monday.

Stephen Anderson took his guest Robert Peters, visiting from Germany with his wife Karin, off in Mr Anderson’s small Polar boat for a closer look at the highly predatory black and white giants.

What was even more remarkable was that in June, Stephen and his daughter Joanna, home from university saw the same pod of seven killer whales in the same place.

Mr Anderson said that the group ranged in size from a six-foot youngster “the size of a table” to a big male whose straight dorsal fin was over three feet high.

He said: “It was the second time we saw the same pod of whales in Sandsound. They were all different sizes. Some of them rose out of the water for a look.

“It was super to see them, especially for Robert and Joanna.”

Prior to that, the animals had been lying in a group on the surface. Mr Anderson said that they did the “exact same thing” as on their previous visit, taking a turn round Tresta before heading out to the open sea again.

On the first occasion they had headed west to Sand and Kirk Holm, before appearing to head towards Reawick, though in the more recent sighting, it was not apparent where the pod headed for.

Mr Anderson said that he was unconcerned by the proximity of the powerful cetaceans and that the orcas seemed in no way annoyed by the presence of the boat.

He reckoned they were not interested in seals, which they would have found further in Bixter Voe, but had probably come in looking for herring or mackerel.

Mr Peters, a retired English teacher, who has been a regular visitor to Shetland since 1974, said that Stephen had alerted him about the whales and they had set off in the boat in minutes.

He managed to take photos and video of the orcas on his phone as they swam alongside the workboat. Mr Peters said: “I was obviously excited, full of joy but a bit wary as I could not help but think of the story of Moby Dick.

“It is a close encounter with something that you cannot possibly understand, from a different world.

“The pod was coming up and going down and getting to within five or 10 metres away. I would say they were remarkably docile but also curious – one came in for a look.”

Mr Peters had seen killer whales once before during a trip to Orkney in 1973, and pilot whales at the grind in Faroe, but had never seen killer whales close up except on TV.


AboutPeter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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