29 Sep Questionary: Marie Mrusczok - Researchers, guides, photographers, storytellers - with this questionary we want to introduce people who share a deep love for whales and dolphins: meet Marie Mrusczok from Orca Guardians Iceland!
Researchers, guides, photographers, storytellers - with this questionary we want to introduce people who share a deep love for whales and dolphins: meet Marie Mrusczok from Orca Guardians Iceland!
#1 Who are you and what are you doing?
I am an orca conservationist with a specialization in photo-ID. I work as spotter and guide onboard Laki Tours Whale Watching in West Iceland. In 2016, I founded the independent nonprofit organization Orca Guardians Iceland, to protect the orcas of West Iceland through research, education, and direct conservation measures.
#2 Best job in the world?
Absolutely! Watching orcas is great, learning about them at the same time even better, and ultimately being able to help in their conservation is best!
#3 Why whales?
Not all whales. I’m an orcaholic, really. What fascinates me about them is that we can never predict them. Every time we think we figured out what they are doing and why/how they do it, they will, for sure, prove us wrong! They can teach us humans a great deal about how nature cannot (and should not) be controlled.
#4 Your favourite place and time to meet the whales?
The springtime in West Iceland – it’s the most exciting time for orca sightings here.
#5 Favourite own whale photo? Why?
I really love the images that show orcas with the rugged landscape (especially the lava fields) of Iceland. One of my all-time favorites shows the orcas travelling past the misty tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, with people watching from shore. It symbolizes everything I love – orcas, undisturbed, respectfully watched, and the breathtaking Icelandic shoreline in the background.
#6 Best thing that ever happened during an encounter?
In the early years, I often had the opportunity to watch the orcas on my own from a remote beach. Those memories are very precious to me. One day I was standing on the shore in a blizzard, all on my own, because the orcas were feeding on herring very close to land. I was wearing a lot of layers to withstand the elements, with one of the blue Láki Tours overalls on top of everything. At some point it was a total whiteout in any direction, with about 30 metres visibility. I knew that the orcas were very close as I could hear them breathe every now and then. All of a sudden then the lead female of the group, Skadi (SN080), appeared out of the snow facing me on the shore. She turned slightly and lifted her head out of the water a bit to look at me, the only blue dot in kilometers of snowy-white shoreline. She then quickly disappeared back into the mists and to the feeding. It was absolutely magical.
#7 What makes a perfect day with the whales?
Any day we spot orcas is a perfect day to me, no question. No two sightings are alike, and we can always discover something new about them.
#8 What do you want people to bring home from an encounter?
On our trips, people hear not only about the whales, but also about the threats to cetaceans in today’s world. Ultimately, I would want them to listen to what can be done to better the whales’ situation, and take actions at home concerning waste disposal, chemical pollution, and seafood consumption.
#9 Your advice for everyone who's planning a whale watching trip?
Choose a responsible whale watch operator, and choose a place with low boat traffic. An area with a lot of competing boat operators puts a lot of pressure on the animals in terms of physical and noise disturbance, no matter how ecofriendly the advertisements. The company should follow a code of conduct for approach without disturbance in practice, not just on paper. You can find out about the best places on environmentally conscious and independent platforms such as WhaleTrips.
If you want to support the non-profit work of the Orca Guardians, you can do so by making a donation: With the adoption of an orca you will not only get regular information about »your« and the other Icelandic orcas, but also great pictures in high quality, which you can have printed as postcards or posters.
On our winter trip to Iceland, we visited Marie and the Orca Guardians in Snaefellsnes and tried our hand at the photo identification of orcas. Not so easy at all! You can find the complete article here: Iceland in winter: Orcas in the snow