The stranded killer whale was saved

The killer whale was saved just before midnight on Friday.

The killer whale was saved just before midnight on Friday. Composite image/Arianne Gaehwiller/Kristján Ingi

The orca or killer whale that was lying stranded at Gilsfjörður on Friday was rescued in a flood at midnight that night. The rescue team Ósk received assistance from rescue teams from Reykjavík with crews, lights and a drone.

The animal was released from the strand area at around eleven o’clock Friday night and escorted to a greater depth where a boat followed it into the deepest depths.

The whale disappeared out of sight just before one AM., according to Þóra Jóhanna Jónasdóttir, a veterinarian at the Food and Veterinary Authority.

In good shape, given the circumstances

“It was in an amazingly good shape considering it had been stranded during two low tides.  The flooding was decided to be put to the test overnight and to put everything possible in order to get him out,” Jónasdóttir tells

The animal was a young, healthy male and its physical condition seemed good.

“We monitored its breathing, for example, because whales are so heavy that they can collapse if they lie under their own weight for so long.”

Breathing more rapidly as people approached

A crowd gathered at the beach on Friday, some walking towards the animal, according to Jónasdóttir.

From the rescue operation Friday night.

From the rescue operation Friday night. Photo/Arianne Gaehwiller

“The animal got very nervous and started breathing much faster. But as soon as the people were dismissed, its breathing slowed down again. It is very important in such cases that people are not coming in groups in because any stress on the animal diminishes the chances of survival.”

Did you worry that the orca wouldn't survive?

“If you can’t get the animal out during the first flood of the night, which is the best flood for the next 24 hours,  the chances of survival diminish. Truly we were concerned, but because the animal’s physical condition, despite this, seemed to be quite good, the decision was made to continue the rescue efforts. But of course, we had also considered what to do if the animal was getting very weak.”

The emergency response team Hvalir thanks everyone who came to the animal’s aid in one way or another.


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