3rd April 2020
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WATCH: Intrepid Leith gets up close to ‘amazing’ orcas

A still taken from the underwater footage captured by Ryan Leith.

An intrepid isles swimmer has spoken about the moment he came face to face with an orca in the deep blue waters of a Norwegian fjord.

Ryan Leith snapped up the opportunity to travel to Norway to help film and photograph the magnificent creatures with Dutch nature lovers Melvin Redeker and Fiona van Doorn.

Joining him on the trip was his wife Sarah and Craig Nisbet, who was a warden on Noss this summer.

Heart-in-mouth footage taken by Mr Leith off the island of Spildra shows a male orca straight ahead, with its huge dorsal fin piercing the water. It was part of a pod that had come into the fjord in search of food.

Below was a shoal of herring, with humpback whales also looking for grub.

Although Mr Leith said the male was about seven or eight metres long, he insisted the predator didn’t fancy him for dinner.



“It was amazing,” he said.

“I wasn’t apprehensive, I was very excited because I’d been waiting a long time to get in the water with them. I’d seen how they were behaving and they were quite at ease.”

Up close the side fins of the killer whales were “enormous”.

“It was great to see them in their element. I’ve been trying to see them for quite a few years. It’s actually quite difficult [in Shetland] because they travel around the islands so quickly… by the time you get your [swimming] gear together or you’re in the boat it’s actually very difficult to know where they are going to be.

“Up in Norway there’s so many of them and they’re feeding in the area.

“You could see them coming at you under the water, they were interested to see what you were. Obviously, a lot of those orcas have never seen a human in the water before but I never felt they were interested in making a meal out of me.”

One of the whales takes a dive. Photo: Ryan Leith

The pod of orcas were feeding on a large shoal of herring in the fjords. Photo: Ryan Leith

About Adam Guest

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as a senior news reporter at The Press and Journal, The Barnsley Chronicle and as a freelance reporter for The Doncaster Free Press. Alongside news reporting I specialise in music and sports journalism. Pork pie lover.

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