Staying with the orcas (24.07.-28.07.06)

by firmm Team

Tarifa, 12 o'clock. The sun burns, the wind blows, the hairstyle keeps stable despite the continuous spray of saltwater. It's already the third time I'm staying for a whole week with "Katharina and the whales". Somehow I'm hooked on the charm of the marine mammals in the Strait of Gibraltar, the assistants of the foundation firmm® and even the surfing and fishing village Tarifa at the southernmost point of Europe, which is affected by various incomparable experiences of smell.

By pure chance I came here because of the aunt of a friend, who organizes courses of marine biology for a diving club in Basel (Switzerland). I was pretty surprised to meet so many different species of dolphins (three different ones), pilot whales and depending on the season even sperm whales and orcas, in the most driven strait. As affected diver and hobby photographer I was glad to be allowed to follow up my leisure activities in this way and with my pictures to make a little contribution to the foundation firmm® and the preservation of the marine mammals.


Left hand: striped dolphin: right hand: jumping bottlenose dolphins (pictures: Bernd Nies;

This week again we have been lucky with the wind and also the orcas gathered to have their yearly feast of tuna in the Strait of Gibraltar. Because of a morning fogbank we could not go out until the third attempt. A three hours lasting boat excursion brought us from Tarifa to the underwater rocks, where scores of Spanish and Moroccan fishers are usually fish the tuna. Some of them use very small boats and bait by hand the tuna with long fishing lines. The shrewd killer whales learned long ago that there is somebody handling the hard work of fishing. They wait patiently until the tired tuna is pulled from the deepness to the surface to nibble them fast as lightning from the line and to leave at least the heads with the fish hook. They are totally busy and emerge here and there between the fisher boats, snap at air for three to four times and then dive back down.

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Orcas are patrolling around the fisherboats (Pictures: on the left: Bernd Nies ,; on the right: Christoph Bosshard )

The photography of whales and dolphins is basically matter of luck: mostly the animals don't show up at the place where you are just aiming at with the telephoto, mostly they are too far away, you are just missing to push the trigger, the clarity and the display window doesn't suit or you simply loose the animal when the boat see-saws. But anyway it is a lot of fun to observe and photograph the animals and after rejects of 90% there are at least some very nice pictures. The challenge is mounting to go on with taking better pictures than before and for sure this visit won't be my last one.

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Spanish (left hand) and Moroccan fishers (right hand) catching the next meal for the orcas (pictures: Christoph Bosshard; pay attention on the newborn on the right hand side in the middle !)

Many thanks to the staff members of firmm® and their precious work!

-Bernd Nies-

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