Up to 5,5 tons
Various fish, squid / seals, smaller whales
30-50 years (males) / 45-90 years (females)
Drum rolls, please! Here I am, my tall dorsal fin slowly breaking through the water, rising like a mountain peak from the sea, everyone waiting with bated breath, and – here I come! My body slices smoothly through the surface of Skjálfandi Bay before I submerge again, my dorsal fin slowly sinking down. Gone.
You can breathe now. Oh you humans always got to be so noisy? All these cheering for joy – is that a way to applaud my performance? Alright, I do it again – here comes the dorsal fin…
Are you scared? No way! Let me comfort you: I am much more into fish like herring, salmon, capelin! Even if I wasn’t, I am convinced seals and porpoises are the true delicacy, not you humans.
Look, there comes the baby! Oh, please, shut up already, would you? All the screaming and squeaking – you’re scaring the small one!
And here comes the others – my family. May I introduce: we are the ORCAS, pandas of the sea or – as you like to name us – KILLER WHALES. What might take you by surprise is that we actually belong to the dolphin family. With a length of 6-9 metres and a weight of up to 9 tons, we are by far the largest, though. We show up in various areas around Iceland and some of us travel as far as Norway and Scotland when not here. Even while travelling to all these places, we will stay with our families all our lives, in so-called pods. Only males leave their groups temporary during mating season.
Attention now, I got a trivia question for you: what do we orcas have in common with elephants, lions, hyenas, lemurs, ants and bees?
You’re ready to hear the solving? We all live in a matriarchal society!
We orcas are led by a female, the oldest female to be precise. She is guiding us, making important decisions, leading the hunt and teaches our calves everything that matters in life. While male orcas have a believed lifespan of 30-50 years, females tend to live way longer, anything up to 90 years old. Growing that old allows them to take good care of the offsprings in a family while passing on all their knowledge and wisdom to the next generations. You might have heard of the long-presumed oldest orca: Granny. Early estimates placed her birth in 1911, putting her at 105 years old at the time she was declared deceased. Even though later studies revealed she was not as old after all (more between 65 and 80 years of age), she remains a true legacy.
Last, who would we be without our own celebrities. There’s no doubt you all know the probably most famous orca of all: Keiko, star of the Free Willy movies. Keiko was born in the waters around Iceland and at the end of his career as a movie star, returned home in autumn 1998 when he was brought to the Westman Island in the south of Iceland. A few years later, Keiko was set free and ventured off to Norway, where unfortunately he died of a lung disease shortly after.
Relative size to a human