If there was a big miracle involving a large pod of orcas that had been trapped by ice in northern Quebec, it arrived courtesy of Mother Nature.
At least 12 orcas had been confined to a small breathing hole in a remote portion of Hudson Bay since Monday. But on Thursday morning the hole had widened and there was lots of open water, and the orcas had vanished.
Extreme tidal movements attributed to a new moon and strong northerly winds that blew overnight were the reason, according to Johnny Williams, town manager at Inukjuak, which is nearest the site of the drama involving the orcas.
“Everybody’s celebrating; we’re all in a good mood,” Williams said by telephone Thursday morning.
NBC News quotes Inukjuak Mayor Petah Inukpuk as saying the orcas, or killer whales, had found a passage all the way to the ocean, about 25 miles away, although that has not been confirmed.
Oceans of Freedom, which has been in contact with a pilot who conducted a flyover Thursday morning, reports on its Facebook page that the orcas have left Inukjuak Bay (within Hudson Bay), but must still navigate through heavy ice in Hudson Bay to reach the ocean.
It’s not clear if the pilot or anyone has actually spotted the orcas.
The drama had played out as townsfolk and activists had besieged Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans with pleas to do something. The orcas, or killer whales, were not able to sleep and spent all of their energy trying to keep a breathing hole, about the size of a large truck, from shrinking.
The DFO had planned to conduct a flyover Thursday morning.
A grassroots rescue effort, involving townsfolk and at least one private company, had planned to use chainsaws and other machinery to try to free the orcas Thursday.
Two local hunters, Jobie Epoo and Jamisee Weetaluktuk, ventured to the site Thursday and discovered the missing orcas.
Williams said that when townsfolk awoke to find the ice had broken up along the shore, about 30 miles from where the orcas had been, they knew the open water had spread out over a vast area. Williams said winds shifted from the northwest to the north late Wednesday night and increased to about 30 mph.
Before Thursday, people were reminded of the movie “Big Miracle,” which was about three gray whales trapped in Arctic ice, and the massive effort that developed to try to free them.
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