Into the Deep -Spring 2018

Eric Savetsky travels the undersea world with his camera

Eric Savetsky is very far away from the offices of the Nantucket Islands Land Bank, where he is executive director. He is in a Zodiac, which has been motoring through the Norwegian fjords all day, looking for a telltale sign that there is something worth jumping out of the boat and into the freezing water to try to photograph.

It is just as cold as you would expect. Ice has formed on the little inflatable boat. It gets dark in Norway very early this time of year. It is only two o’clock in the afternoon, but the sky is already making the boat’s skipper suggest it might be time to head back to shore.

A humpback whale off Tonga in the South Pacific.

Then they see the fishing boat, a purse-seine trawler, hauling a net full of herring.

“The boat had set a net on a school of herring,” Savetsky said. “I think the orca learn that pattern and hear that noise. They were there when we got there. The fishing boat had already pulled their net to the side of the boat and the orca were all milling around.

“It was pretty frantic. Birds, orca, herring. And the boat driver was saying we can’t go into the water because the net was still in the water. But I’m sitting there, with my feet over the side in the water, saying to him, ‘We gotta go in the water. Don’t worry. I’m not going to swim into the net.’ Finally, we got into the water.”

The photo, and the video, show the swirling mass of herring, sometimes called a herring ball, sunlight glinting off the fish. Several orca are feeding off the herring. One slaps the fish with her tail fluke, shocking them and allowing her calf to feed.

“I was in so far over my head, I was a hack diver at best. Although I was certified, I had probably only done 10 or 20 dives. We were in the open ocean with big currents, big animals, very challenging diving.”

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