orcas trapped in ice in Hudson Bay

Photo: Snapshot from video

A video about the plight of 11 killer whales trapped in the ice in Hudson Bay went viral this week, but as the world demanded quick action to free them, they managed to escape on their own.

The whale pod had been trapped in a tiny area of water surrounded by unbreakable ice at least six miles from open water, CNN reports. The whales' swimming area was only about 30 feet by 30 feet, and they were sharing a single breathing whole about the size of a truck. The whales normally move further south at this time of year, before Arctic ice closes off their escape route. The bay froze at some point on Monday, much later than usual. 

It appears that the pod consisted of two adults and nine younger whales, possibly all from the same family.

Local villagers had been working to increase the size of the ice hole. An icebreaker vessel could have theoretically cleared a path for the whales to the open ocean, but the nearest ships were at least a day and a half away, helping to clear a commercially important area of the Saint Lawrence River. Canadian government officials were reportedly en route to the area to see if what other aid could be provided.

But as the world watched and waited, fates — and the winds — shifted. Warmer winds melted enough of the ice so the whales could escape on their own. When locals showed up to check on the whales at 8:20 a.m. today, the whales were gone.

Local resident Peter Qumaluk, one of many volunteers trying to help the whales, told The Globe and Mail that villagers "feel pretty good as people around the world feel too."

Below, watch a video of the unfolding story:

(Text: John Platt)

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