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Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Black And White Story On The Open Water

The stage was set for one of the more pleasant swims during the Port Nelson Summer Sea Swim Series in New Zealand back in the summer of 2011.

The Port Nelson Summer Sea Swim Series is a summer season long group of community swims held on Thursday nights with a history that goes back 25 years.

On that one particular Thursday, it was a warm evening with flat water and no currents.

Then an orca popped up its fin. About an hour before the start of the night swim, a pod of six orcas, possibly two mothers and babies and a couple of males, slipped through the Cut and cruised up the harbour.

One pair may have been prospecting for stingrays along the shoreline in front of the Nelson Yacht Club on Wakefield Quay. As the orcas did some slow body rolls 20 meters offshore, the swimmers were mesmerized as warm-up halted. Beautiful, but haunting to say the least. Philip Rush was consulted on the telephone and assured the race organisers that orcas have never attacked a swimmer. So the show rolled on. As the pre-race briefing for the 155 swimmers continued, a pair of orcas continued to cruise the course.

Outwardly assured and confident, the swimmers took to the sea as scheduled as some of the spectators onshore may have half-expected a feeding frenzy of humans by orcas. 106 swimmers took off on the 1300m course with the large black and white shapes trolling beneath them. 49 swimmers on the 500m short course were close to shore, where the more fertile feeding grounds lie.

Fraser Neill, Joe Thornton, William Borrell, Jack Thornton, Jon Linyard, Ben Van Dyke, Zoe Borrell, Flossie Van Dyke, Kerry Mathieson, Madisen Stanley, Caitlin Abbott, Kirstin Ramsay, Amy Coulton, Vanessa Price, Nigel Muir, Josh Barry, Grant Ward, Debra Betsworth and a number of newbies and triathletes came out safely of the water - with a story to tell as black-and-white as ever.

Photos of orcas by Robert Pittman, NOAA.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Source

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