Killer Whales Trapped Under Ice Free Themselves

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(ABC News)–The killer whales trapped under ice near a remote Quebec village reached
safety today after the floes shifted on Hudson Bay, according to the
mayor's office in Inukjuak.

Water opened up around the area where the orcas had been coming up for
air and the winds seemed to have shifted overnight, creating a
passageway to the open water six miles away.

“Two men were sent to check on the whales around 8 a.m., and they found
that a passage of water had been created, all of the way to the open
sea,” Johnny Williams, the town manager, told ABCNews.com. “The wind
from the north shifted yesterday.

“This is great news,” Williams said.

He said the local residents are rejoicing now that they've learned the news.

“They're all really happy and really celebrating,” Williams said. “They have smiles, and are saying thank you — everything!”

Williams said he was unsure how far the whales have moved, but that they
were definitely not under the ice hole. The mayor, Peter Inukpuk, and
others will be flying over the area as soon as a plane arrives from
Montreal to see if the whales can be found, Williams said.

Residents in the remote village of Inukjuak had been watching helplessly
as at least 12 whales struggled to breathe out of a hole slightly
bigger than a pickup truck in a desperate bid to survive.

The community had asked the Canadian government for help in freeing the
killer whales, believed to be an entire family. The government denied a
request to bring icebreakers Wednesday, saying they were too far away to
help. Inukjuak, about 900 miles north of Montreal, was ill-equipped to
jump into action.

Joe Gaydos, director and chief scientist at the SeaDoc Society in
Eastsound, Wash., said that although the whales can go a long time
without food, the length of time they can hold their breath, which they
must do underwater, was the question.

“The challenge [was] to figure out where the next hole is,” he told
ABCNews.com before the whales found freedom. “If that lake freezes over,
it's an unfortunate situation. It's a very limited chance. It's a
matter of luck.”

Inukjuak residents posted a video online to show the whales' struggles.
In the clip, the whales are seen taking turns breathing. They can't bend
their necks so they do a “spy-hopping” maneuver, Gaydos said, in order
to look for another hole in the ice.

A hunter first spotted the pod of trapped whales Tuesday. It is believed
that the whales swam into the waters north of Quebec during recent warm
weather.

Copyright 2013 by ABC News

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