Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

The Whales, The Whales

Orcas - Graphic via Wikimedia Commons

The one creature I have wanted to see at the lighthouse that has so far eluded me are Orca whales. I have spent hours sitting on my "Orca Rock" watching for these magnificent creatures. During the summer months it is not unusual to see pods of Orcas swimming around the Shetland shore. I have seen reports of Orca sightings in the Shetland Times. Some how those whales never seem to swim around to the northwest side of the main island?

A few weeks ago Tom, the lighthouse caretaker called, to announce that a pod of NINE!! Orcas had been seen swimming around his little boat anchored in Stenness Bay, our small bay which is a part of the greater St Magnus Bay. I was excited that the whales had finally come to our side of the island and disappointed that I had not seen them. (Graphic of Orcas is via Wikimedia Commons).

A couple of days later neighbours reported that Orcas had been seen swimming a few feet off shore in Hillswick, the nearest village to the lighthouse. There was no doubt that the Orcas were visiting St Magnus Bay. I became all excited and started reading about the Orca, commonly known as the "killer whale." Why had they come to St Magnus Bay? I assumed they were following their food source. As I researched the subject this is what I found:

"The Orca eats fish, squid, penguins, sea lions, seals and the Orca is the only whale that eats other whales. The Orca Whale sucks fish from fishermen's lines. Orcas hunt in pods. Orcas tend to toss there victims around as play before eating them. The Orca is the only whale that attacks and kills animals on shore. The Orca has been found with seal tongue, brain, intestine, walrus remains and other animals inside."

The frightening word in this list of chosen food is seals. The seals that live in St Magnus Bay are our nearest neighbors. I have spent many hours sitting and watching them play near the Bruddans, the area I call the "seal rocks." They are my friends. Realizing my friends had been in danger I immediately called Tom. He had been out in his boat so he would know if the seals had escaped the visit of the whales. Dreading his answer I was pretty sure that he would say the numbers of seals had decreased. I was right Tom had seen only a few seals since the whales visited. Hoping that they were just hiding or had run for shelter, we awaited their return. Thank goodness some are back but not in the numbers that we had in the spring.

I understand that this is the way the food chain works and that what happened was just natural. But, the distressing thing to me is because of man's intervention the number of seals is reduced significantly already. Having a pod of Orcas eating some of the few remaining for lunch seemed like a huge disaster.

Well, I do not think I will sit out on my "Orca Rock" and hope for a visit after what happened during this last visit. I will either go to another part of the island to see them or be satisfied with the animated whale on this page. The seals being our neighbors and friends should not be devoured by a bunch of whales. They can choose another restaurant besides St Magnus Bay.

Hoping The Seals Return,


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