Killer whales trapped in ice off northern Japan appear to have escaped unharmed.
Killer whales trapped in ice on the northern mainland island of Hokkaido have escaped safely, sparking concern from environmental groups, Japanese officials say. The killer whales, also known as orcas, were found by local fishermen on Tuesday morning after authorities in the nearby town of Rausu on Hokkaido's northeast coast. Officials returned to the beach Tuesday evening and found the pod moving northward, and when they returned Wednesday morning, it was gone, a Rousu official said.
At least 10 pods of orcas trapped in the sea ice were nowhere to be seen the next day, and city officials were hopeful they could free themselves, media reports said.
According to NHK World JapanThe pod was first spotted on drone footage on Tuesday about half a mile off the coastal city of Raushu in northern Japan, but no one could do anything to save the whales.
“We have no choice but to wait for the ice to break up and for them to escape that way,” a Rasu official told NHK.
The oceanographer who piloted the drone told media that he spotted 13 killer whales, including four calves.
Wednesday morning came and looked and Kai and his calves were nowhere to be found.
NHK reported that the surveyor confirmed seeing about 17 whales trapped in the ice about a mile away from the original pods.
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City officials searched for orcas for 90 minutes in the morning, but were unable to find any, according to the news release.
Rasu town officials told NHK that they believed the orcas had escaped as the ice had loosened. But beyond that, local weather observers said the seas were packed with ice, NHK reported.
How did it start?
While members of local wildlife organization Wildlife Pro were conducting marine research on the island, a local fisherman discovered an orcas trapped in the sea ice. NHK reported.
Local authorities were informed as the organizers went to the spot to capture the footage.
How did sea ice form and what are the dangers?
Because there is no air in the area, the ice may not split to create enough space for the pod to travel.
In the footage, the whales poked their heads out of a small area of broken ice. They were coming alternately for air.
“It looked like they were struggling to breathe,” a Wildlife Pro employee who caught the orcas on camera told NHK.
Contributed by: Emily Coplents, USA Today