Learn | Deicing

Trapped orca whales and the power of social medias

Orcas trying to keep the ice hole open. Credit: Andy MoorehouseAs I opened the most recent edition of McLeans magazine, in which there is a review of the year in pictures, I caught my breath as I saw a stunning double-page pictures of the pod of orca whales who found themselves trapped in ice last January in Inukjuak, Quebec. It reminded me of how closely we were able to follow this story, practically minute by minute, over a short period of 24 hour, through our social media accounts.

We saw firsthand the power of social media to bring people together, contribute support and ideas and share up to the minute updates on a situation that was close to their hearts, and ours! Aerial view of the trapped whales.  Credit: Eva Inukpuk

Let’s recall what happened then…

January 9 2013– Afternoon

A post appears on our Facebook news feed stating that a small pod of orca whales seem trapped by ice sheets somewhere in Northern Quebec. As the evening went on, it quickly became evident that in their efforts to keep the hole from freezing over, the orcas whales were putting themselves in danger of exhaustion. The only breathing hole for the orca whales was the size of a large pick-up truck.

Big Miracle movie poster

January 9 2013 – Early evening

Remembering a similar situation that occurred in Alaska in 1988 (on which the movie A Big Miracle was based, see poster), where grey whales trapped between ice sheets were rescued with the use of deicers. Being based in Quebec ourselves, the president of our company, Mario Paris of Canadianpond.ca, decided to directly contact the mayor of Inukjuak to offer him help in the form of water circulators, bubbler systems and staff. Petah Inukpuk kindly took note of the offer but had to meet with town officials before taking any decision as to the course of action.

January 9 2013 – Late evening

Following the meeting, it was decided that Andy Moorehouse from Air Inuit would coordinate the efforts. So we also offered our help to Andy. However the decision was made to wait a little longer to intervene as nature might just take its course.

Orca whales trapped in Inukjuak.  Credit: Andy Moorehouse

On the advice of the Elders based on traditional knowledge of wind and ice shifting patterns, it was their hope that shifting winds following the moon cycle might create a break in the ice allowing the whales to escape to freedom.

January 10 2013 – Morning

Anxiously awaiting news to find out if we should organize the shipment of our deicers and linear bubblers system, we kept our eyes on our social media accounts where we were stunned to see the outpouring messages of support and the fastExample of canal deicing with linear diffuser.  Credit: Steve Manders sharing of any information in the form of pictures, videos and updates. At around 9:30 am the following day, Mayor Petah Inukpuk confirmed in a phone message that the whales had left the area and were on the move early in the morning. Instant relief for everybody was quickly followed by more worries as the whales’ troubles seemed to not be over. There was roughly 1000 km between the pod and open Atlantic water, and people were still concerned for their safety as the ice cover was shifting and growing.

January 10 2013 – Afternoon

An aerial survey from Inukjuak revealed no trace of the orca family that had been trapped in the ice with just one small breathing hole.

Canadianpond Facebook message

In the next few days, more aerial surveys were conducted and they confirmed the whales somehow managed to find their way to safety.

Such situations where whales get trapped by ice may be more common than we think but this case received a lot of attention as it was so close to a village. It would be unrealistic to hope this won’t happen again, but if it does, our deicers and bubbler systems remain available. We’ll keep our eyes peeled and if you hear about it first… …just send us a Tweet, and we’ll be there!

Want to know more?

Killer whales trapped in Quebec ice captured in haunting video by CTV News

Killer whales trapped as ice hole shrinks in Northern Quebec by CBC News

Big Miracle movie

First published in December 2013