News / Americas

Climate Change May Have Confused, Trapped Killer Whales

Clock Ticking to Free Trapped Killer Whales in Canadai
X
January 10, 2013 6:54 PM
A northern Canada community is seeking help in freeing about a dozen killer whales - or Orcas - trapped under a vast stretch of sea ice in the eastern Hudson Bay.

A pod of killer whales in Canada's Hudson Bay captivated the world's attention after this video circulated on social media.

A pod of killer whales trapped in the ice of Canada’s Hudson Bay successfully has left the small opening where they were gasping for breath, but marine specialists say global warming could cause more incidents like this.

Lyne Morissette, a marine researcher with the St. Lawrence Global Observatory in Quebec, said the 12 orcas may simply have gotten lost while hunting for seals and other food, but it’s more likely they got stuck in the ice because of climate change.

“They tend to base their migration on temperature, but based on the fact that temperature is changing in the Arctic, and the water is warmer, maybe they didn’t get the signal,” she said.

The mammals’ plight captivated the world after video taken by Inuit residents of the the Inukjuak community circulated on television and social media, showing the killer whales taking turns bobbing above the Bay’s icy waters.

Thousands of supporters offered money and equipment to free the whales, and news of their escape Thursday - two days after they were spotted - spurred celebrations online. But unlike in the movies about whale rescues, this story doesn’t have a soaring soundtrack or happy ending.

“They are probably close to 1,000 kilometers south of where they should be. So they still have ice to struggle with to really be at the safe place,” Morissette said. “It’s not the end of the story, because they have to get out of the Hudson Bay.”

Global warming?

The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with temperatures rising about two degrees centigrade since 1950, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado.

“The warming temperatures are making highly unpredictable the pattern of ice formation,” said Peter Ewins of the World Wildlife Fund Canada. “What used to be much more predictable and routine is now unpredictable, and that’s what leads to these great uncertainties and risks.”

Ewins pointed to both the whales getting stuck, and a separate incident this week in which a rescue helicopter broke through the ice in another area of the Hudson Bay.

“The lessons you’ve learned, whether you’re wildlife or human, don’t apply. You’ve got a radically different, changing system. Those tools and experiences are actually not relevant anymore,” he said.

Ted Scambos, a lead scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, agreed the Arctic is changing and said greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are a major cause of this warming.

But he said he doubts this week’s events are directly linked to global warming or changes in the sea ice, which has declined in extent by three percent per decade for the last few decades in winter. In summer, that rate is more like 13 percent.

“I think winds and ice conspired to corral and then constrict this pod of killer whales and then the winds shifted before people had to take action and allowed the killer whales to get out,” Scambos said.

“That sort of stuff must have happened over and over again in history,” he said. “And some whales were lucky and some whales weren’t.”

Survival of the fittest

Whether it was global warming or shifting winds and tides that trapped the orcas, both Scambos and Ewins agreed the mammals are facing a basic test of the survival of the fittest.

While the pod that got trapped may be a weaker link, it is showing signs of remarkable intelligence, Morissette said.

“It’s amazing to see how they managed to find a strategy to share that little space and organize who’s going to breathe and when, because they all needed to breathe every five minutes and they found the strategy for the survival of the group and not the survival of the strongest.”

Morissette said the orcas may try to figure out a way to spend the winter in the Bay if they can find enough breaks in the ice to keep breathing. The greatest threat they’re facing, she noted, is exhaustion or drowning.

Ewins said man could help by pumping bubbles into the water, creating an open area. But, using a medical analogy, he said that would be like putting a Band-Aid on the bigger problem of climate change.

”The best, most effective longterm thing to do is to stop the person from having the accident or getting into the hospital in the first place,” he said. “That’s analogous to weaning ourselves off fossil fuels while we still have a chance, so our kids don’t have to deal with these things in an expensive or tragic way.”

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dan Cummings from: Canada
January 12, 2013 12:29 AM
The Global Warming nuts blame EVERYTHING on Global Warming. So let's look at the facts. The temperature was -25C (water freezes at 0C) which is normal there in the middle of winter. The whales were trapped in ice, which does happen. Tides shifted the ice and the whales were able to escape. This happens. They are very smart. It has nothing to do with Global Warming. It's normal cold there right now.

In Response

by: Ron Clark from: USA
January 13, 2013 2:44 PM
Normally, I never read anything that says "may" in it from these "science types", This is propaganda and there will be a constant barrage of it, as that is how governments "brain wash" weak minded people.


by: Raifon from: Campbell River
January 11, 2013 10:12 PM
If gobal warming were true the whales shoud have been swimming and feeding in a hot tub enviroment not the frozen ice field they found themselves in. You can't spin this enviro crap seven ways of sunday and expect to be taken seriously !

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexican Soldiers Face Murder Charges in 22 Deaths

Three soldiers charged with homicide in death of 22 suspected drug gang members who prosecutors allege were executed
More

Poll: Record Number of Mexicans Crime Victims in 2013

While government data shows murder rate has fallen in past 2 years, crimes such as kidnapping and extortion, which affect wider swath of the population, rise
More

OAS Asks Members to Take In Guantanamo Detainees

Organization of American States issues appeal for member countries to take in detainees from US military prison
More

Recession Looms Over Venezuela, Official Data Under Wraps

Empty store shelves, closed factory gates and idled construction projects tell their own story
More

US Judge Holds Argentina in Contempt Over Bond Payment Plan

In rare move, District Judge Thomas Griesa says country taking 'illegal' steps to evade his orders in longstanding dispute with hedge funds over defaulted debt
More

Brazil's Rousseff Extends Lead Over Silva in Elections

President Dilma Rousseff's expected victory margin over closest rival Marina Silva has surged to 9 percentage points
More