The volunteer crew from RNLI Longhope were on a routine training session in Scapa Flow early on the morning of Sunday, 17 December, when they were treated to an unexpected and prolonged encounter with half a dozen killer whales.
Swimming off the coast of St Margaret’s Hope, the cetaceans were from what is known as the 65s pod, regular visitors to the Orkney Islands that include one male known as Busta.
“It was an amazing encounter,” said trainee navigator Alan Mackinnon. “There were about six orca, including a calf and a bull. They were swimming around and under the boat, tail-slapping and jumping in the air. They gave us a brilliant acrobatic display.
“To see these majestic creatures up close, and in their natural environment, was an absolute privilege and an experience that I will never forget.”
The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. Independent of Coastguard and government, the charity depends on donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service.
Since it was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 142,700 lives, including many divers.