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In Norway’s icy seas, freediver dances with killer whales – Science-Environment News – Report by AFR

Gliding stealthily through Norway’s frigid Arctic waters, world champion freediver Arthur Guerin-Boeri defies the glacial temperatures and darkness to rub shoulders with one of the most fearsome sea predators — killer whales.

A fin emerges from the gloomy depths off the island of Spildra in the Scandinavian country’s far north. The glimpse is all Guerin-Boeri was waiting for.

The Frenchman is a holder of multiple world records in freediving under ice, but he hopes to push the perception of freediving beyond sport and performance.

The Frenchman takes a deep breath and plunges more than 15 metres (49 feet) through the icy waters of Kvaenangen Fjord to watch the whales, which come to the area to hunt herring.

“I’m in the water next to two super-predators that accept me. It’s majestic,” the 38-year-old told AFP after his first such dive with the mammals.

“They move in a synchronised way, in a kind of ballet. I’d like to follow them but it’s impossible, they move too fast and rapidly leave me behind,” he added.

Guerin-Boeri prepares for his dives beside a fire as he shelters from the unforgiving weather in a traditional Norwegian hut made from wood and covered with earth and grass. 

Guerin-Boeri, a five-time world champion in the dynamic apnea category of competitive freediving, can swim more than 100 metres underwater and hold his breath for several minutes.

On this dive, his main goal was simply to contemplate an awe-inspiring creature and pursue “the excitement of making a discovery”.

The dives, he said, are “about 30 seconds, no more.” 

– ‘Unforgettable’ –

He spent a week diving from snowy Spildra, a tiny island above the Arctic Circle, but a violent storm delayed his quest to meet the killer whales by several days.

Despite the poor visibility and the Arctic winds that push the temperature of the sea water below freezing, Guerin-Boeri said the dives were an “unforgettable memory”.

“In this environment, you forget the fatigue, the cold, the apprehension. And when I reach the surface to breathe again, there are ice-covered cliffs around me… you’re surrounded by beauty,” he said.

“I want to return to the essence of freediving: the exploration of the undersea world, making discoveries, and I have been given a treat,” he enthused — so much so that he is already planning to return to Spildra next winter.

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