Despite high waves and strong currents on the sixth day of filming, we decided to shoot some Orcas. We out to some fishermen, who were out to catch Blue-fin Tunas, which are often three meters long. We were hoping to shoot Orcas in action, as they tried to steal the trapped Tunas from the fishermen. On the way out to the fishermen, we caught sight of a family of fast moving Orcas. Our skipper brought our boat around, so that we could get directly into the path of the orcas. But just as we got our cameras into the water, the whales plunged deeper and disappeared, so we turned the boat around and sailed out further. We finally reached the spot where about 30 Spanish and Moroccan boats were rocking in the strong currents. A number of these boats had already caught tunas in their nets, and the fishermen were battling to tire them out before hauling them aboard.
© Bernd Nies / Orcas and the Stella Maris Film Zodiac
In order to prevent the tuna fish from smashing the fishermen's small boats as soon as they are hauled on board, the fishermen always pull the nets up and then let them down into the water again, until their quarry is so exhausted that it can be safely brought on board. Orcas often strike just as the fishermen are about to bring the exhausted tuna aboard. As we prepared to dive among the boats, a group of Orcas were swimming around us. We had to be careful not to get caught in the traps in which the tunas are hanging: A Blue-fin Tuna weighs up to 500 kg. and can move at around 75 kilometers per hour; it's one of the fastest underwater creatures in the world. In their fatal struggle, the tunas move the nets in which they are trapped in frantic circles through the water. As cameraman Gerd Hägele and I dived into the water, the Orcas plunged deep beneath us. It seemed at first as though it was another failed attempt. As we prepared to get back into our boats, our skipper gave us a signal. We looked around and saw four Orca fins coming directly at us. Gerd started rolling and went deeper. At this instant, I saw something silver breaking loose and disappear into the deep: it was his his diving knife. A bad omen? Then, suddenly, we saw it. An Orca dived directly across our camera. When it was about 50 meters away from me, it turned around and came directly at me. Then, as if on signal, it turned around again and disappeared into the blue.