【Series】 Spirits of the Kamuy landscape
In this series, the transformation of four seasons will be introduced through articles on wild animals that are active in the deep forests, marshes, and ocean as if they were being cradled by “Kamui,” which means deity in the Ainu language. The first installment in the series is the Yezo sika deer of Notsuke Peninsula. (Text and photographs by Tadanobu Shigeru from the Kushiro Branch News Secti
【Series】Spirits of the Kamuy landscape (37) Amazing pod of five-meter-long killer whales
Splash! A pod of killer whales swam in formation some ten meters away from the observation boat. They measured over five meters in length, and the sound of their breathing was thrilling to the core.
The ocean waters off the town of Rausu where these killer whales appear is near the southernmost tip of the ocean drift-ice area. In winter, ocean ice coated with phytoplankton flows in, and melts into ocean water in the spring. The population of zooplankton that feeds on the phytoplankton surges and becomes food for not only fish, but also seabirds and marine mammals. The Nemuro Strait is a bountiful waterway containing an ecological pyramid formed atop plankton as the base.
The symbol of this is the killer whale, which rules the top of that ecological pyramid. June through July is the best season for spotting them. Family groups called pods can be spotted, and sometimes super pods composed of multiple groups even appear.
The Nemuro Strait killer whales start to gradually dwindle in number from August onward and chances to see sperm whales increase, as if the whales were passing the baton.
(Words and photo: Shigeru Tadanobu)