11 Desperate Orcas Trapped in Ice Make Dramatic Escape

Neal Karlinsky reports the latest developments in killer whales' fight for survival.
2:05 | 01/10/13

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Transcript for 11 Desperate Orcas Trapped in Ice Make Dramatic Escape
A new development tonight for those 11 desperate orcas, killer whales. We all watched that video of them today, trapped by the ice, forced to breathe through the small hole. Well, tonight, nature has given them a path, but it is a long way out. Abc's neal karlinskytells us about their dramatic attempt to escape. Reporter: They are a family fighting for survival, taking turns to breathe, doing what's called spy hopping, literally peeking out above the waterline, desperately looking for an escape route. This pod of killer whales was trapped in the ice of canada's hudson bay by a cruel turn in the weather. Temperatures in the bay have been unusually warm, luring the family in search of food. But as the temperatures dropped, the bay iced over. There was no way out. With only one hole to share for those precious breaths, they were running out of time. With no real escape route from the hudson bay, they just move from one little breathing area to the next. Reporter: A killer whale can go about 20 minutes at the absolute maximum on one breath. Swimming little more than a mile before needing air. The nearest opening in the ice, an impossible six miles. Several dramatic rescues were considered, but abandoned. Canada's icebreaking ship was days away from clearing a path, but experts feared the noise would frighten the whales. They could have tried to use a chinook helicopter, but too costly, too time consuming. But today, before anything would be done, they were gone. The killer whale is the social predator of the marine environment. The have biggest brain to body weight ratio. They have the best sonar and vision. These guys are no dummies. Reporter: Orcas are led by females, who live up to 80 years. In this case, it's believed the grandmother found an opening and led them out. It will be up to her to keep them alive, navigating a patchwork of ice for hundreds of miles in search of the open sea. Neal karlinsky, abc news, seattle.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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