RAUSU, Japan – A pod of at least 10 orcas that were entangled in sea ice off the coast of northern Japan seemed to have freed themselves, according to local officials on Wednesday. Drone footage captured by the wildlife organization Wildlife Pro depicted the killer whales struggling among the frozen waters off Hokkaido, Japan.
The coast guard was unable to rescue the whales on Tuesday because the surrounding ice was too thick, as reported by local officials to public broadcaster NHK. They were trapped a little over half a mile from the coast. However, by Wednesday morning, the orcas could no longer be seen in the area.
“As the gap in the drift ice started to open, it’s likely they escaped,” said an official in the town of Rausu, citing Japan’s Kyoto news agency. They mentioned that the animals were no longer visible with binoculars from the shore. Rausu is located on Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula, which holds the designation of a World Natural Heritage Site by the United Nations.
The incident brings to mind a similar one in 2005 when about 10 orcas died after becoming trapped in drift ice in the same region, as reported by Kyoto. This unfortunate event could have had potentially serious consequences for the stranded orcas, and their escape is promising news for their well-being.