Orcas spotted in Italy are from Iceland: a timeline

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash
Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

The orcas that have been staying close to the harbor of Genoa in Italy for the last two weeks, have finally been identified. They traveled from Iceland.

Orca Guardian Iceland was able to recognize them via photos from their catalog. The remaining four orcas, one sadly died, in Genoa are SN113 “Riptide”, SN114 (the female with the dead calf), SN116 “Aquamarin” and SN115 “Dropi”.

“This is the first EVER record of orcas migrating between Iceland and Italy in killer whale research history, and, we believe, with over 5.200 km one of the longest migration routes ever recorded in the world to date,” Orca Guardian Iceland writes on their Facebook page.

They had last spotted the group in the summer of 2017 in West Iceland. After that, they didn’t see them anymore. Almost 2,5 years later the group, to their surprise, appears in Italy.

Researchers were struggling to identify the orcas when they were first seen in Italy. And they started to get worried about their health, especially after a baby died.

A timeline:

Dec 1
Videos and photos are starting to surface of orcas in the harbor near Genoa. There are five in total. People are amazed and come out to see the rare sighting.


Dec 5
Scientists and the Italian Coast Guard are getting worried because the killer whales are not leaving the area. They seem to be circling in a 100-meter radius which could indicate something is wrong.


Dec 7
The youngest member of the group, a baby, died. In a video you see the mom trying to save her child. Even when the calf died, the mom is seen swimming with her baby, not wanting to let go. The remaining four orcas stay in the harbor of Genoa.


Dec 8
The Italian Coast Guard released a video where you see the mom swimming with the lifeless body of her child.


Dec 10
The mom has let her baby go. Scientists are getting more and more worried about the remaining four killer whales. They are hoping the orcas will soon leave the Genoa harbor, but they think they might stay around because they’re sick. They know how to get out of the port because they leave every afternoon, but return the next morning.

The Italian Coast Guard is searching for the baby orca’s body so they can research what happened.


Dec 12
Researchers are using sound bites of the animals to determine where the orcas come from. So far, they’ve collected a lot of audio files but no idea yet where the killer whales are from and what they’re doing in Italian waters.


Dec 13
The orcas keep leaving but come back the next day. Experts think they leave to find food but return with no success. The male killer whale appears to become weaker.


Dec 15
The orcas left and for a moment researchers thought they were gone for good, but for some unknown reason they animals came back to the harbor. It is still unclear why they’re staying in the Italian port. And it seems as if they’re losing weight.


Dec 16
The four remaining orcas have been identified by Orca Guardians Iceland. Now the question remains why they are in Italy and if they’re able to find food.

On day 18 it seems as if the orcas have left the Italian harbor. Researchers keep tracking their travels where possible.

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