- A group of killer whales trapped in ice have been spotted near northern Japan
- Drone footage showed the struggling orcas trying to free themselves from large chunks of ice off the coast of Rausu
- A rescue mission could not be completed because the city said it had “no choice but to wait for the drift ice to break and they can escape.”
A pod of a dozen killer whales struggled in the ice off the coast of northern Japan as rescuers said they had no way of reaching the animals.
Shocking drone footage showed the struggling orcas trying to free themselves from chunks of ice surrounding them around 8:30 a.m. off the coast of Rausu in eastern Hokkaido on Tuesday, NHK reported.
Rescue operations were not possible as the city said it had “no choice but to wait for the drift ice to break and they could escape.”
A local fisherman reported the group fighting, and the video was captured by others conducting research on sea lions and other animals offshore.
Winds have been light in the area since Monday, causing drift ice to stagnate. The ice may also have expanded more due to “wave spray,” or small water droplets from the ocean's breaking waves.
A group of a dozen orcas were spotted trapped in ice in northern Japan. Drone footage showed the struggling orcas trying to free themselves from large chunks of ice off the coast of Rausu
You can see the head of an orca sticking out of the huge chunks of ice
The person who captured the moment said she believed there were about three to four baby killer whales in the pod and said one appeared to be unwell, according to NHK.
Video of the scene begins with the group jumping in and out of the water, trying to free themselves from the ice, as large mountain peaks loom behind them in the distance.
The icy water moves near them, but the large boulders around them don't move as much.
The town of Rausu reported a similar incident in 2005, when another group of whales became trapped in drifting ice off the same coast and most of them did not survive. It is unclear how many whales died in this incident.
According to Saiyu Travel Co., more than 100 killer whales have visited Rausu.
Orca families appear every year between May and July in Nemuro Strait, a part of the sea that lies between Rausu and Kunashiri Island.
The marine mammals, dubbed the “King of the Seas,” are found in oceans around the world but can only be seen during underwater shows at Kamogawa Sea World, the aquarium attraction reported.
A rescue operation failed as the city said it had “no choice but to wait for the drift ice to break and they could escape.”
Although orcas are often referred to as killer whales, they are actually part of the dolphin family.
According to the Whale & Dolphin Conservation USA, they are the largest member of the dolphin family, as a male orca can grow up to 10 meters long and weigh around 10,000 kilograms.
Females are known to reach an average length of about 27 feet and can reportedly live about 80 years longer than a male orca.
They are known as “killer whales” because ancient sailors saw them hunting large whales. They also tend to feast on fish, squid, seals and seabirds, and have been known to feast on great white sharks, according to the Natural History Museum.
When orcas hunt, they usually do so as a family or in groups. They are also known as “highly intelligent whales” that work together to hunt their prey.
Recently, a pod of orcas were spotted hunting dolphins off the coast of La Jolla in San Diego, California.
Surfers and swimmers witnessed the rare event up close as a pod of orcas were seen chasing and tearing apart a dolphin near the shore.
A surfer is seen watching a group of orcas tear apart a dolphin before the dead mammal sinks into the water
Footage of the moment showed a group of surfboarders off the coast of La Jolla in San Diego watching orcas leaping through the water
Footage from that moment shows a group of surfboarders watching orcas leap through the water.
As they floated quietly on their boards, the orcas could be seen appearing at the end of a pier and throwing a dolphin out of the water.
The pod then attacked the mammal, tearing it apart as it sank into the water.
During this time, a man was heard saying, “Oh my God, they are literally eating the dolphin.”
A few seconds later, the group could be seen swimming off into deeper waters, while one man swam quickly parallel to the killer whales.