Over the past week, we’ve had 5 days with a cumulative count of 50-70 orcas in Bremer Canyon throughout each tour! A VERY rare
As we move further into March we are starting to observe a shift in the entire ecosystem. There have been periods of extended calm weather and sunlight, perfect catalysts for algal blooms!
The orcas have been very docile, not exerting unnecessary energy and sleeping at the surface for extended periods. The oil slicks have been small, suggesting their meals haven’t been sustaining their high metabolic requirements. With less beaked whale kills over the past two weeks we’ve been waiting for our first baleen whale encounter! Today, we got it!!!!! On our venture toward the canyon, we had a radio call from the film crew on our other vessel. Two large column-like blows protruded through the surface….BLUE WHALES!!!!!
As we dropped over the shelf we deployed the hydrophone to have a quick listen of the soundscape, if we could hear a blue whale call…so could the orcas! With no luck, we moved down the shelf and into the honey hole. Once we’d honed in on one pod it wasn’t long before we noticed multiple other pods in close range. Urkel, Split-tip, Blackberry, Kodja, Notcho, AND Malekos pods were present.
The orcas’ behaviour throughout the day was consistent with the rest of the week, calm and focused. Their dives were long and far apart with minimal surface time! The pods started to slowly separate, the majority staying in the confines of the hotspot so we decided to follow Urkel’s pod east. After hours of close interactions, we decided to head for home…only to find 60+ orca up the shelf and in 120m of water!!!!
Every pod from the morning was there and surging past us with intent! They were on a mission! What’d they heard?! We hadn’t seen activity like this for almost a week and we couldn’t contain our excitement! Juvenile orca of all ages and sizes porpoised past us from our stern to our bow! 5 bulls punching their 9-tonne bodies straight through the ever-growing swell!
There were now three perfect lines of orca ALL surging southwest! Split tip and Maleko lead the pack! Each echelon formation containing the individuals of at least two pods! We followed from the side, watching each group surface in unison! Waves were crashing over our bow, we were averaging 10 knots to keep up with the pulse! The orca took us 5 miles and ALL the way to the S-bends before they dropped! It was now as if they were never there! We rolled up and down the swell as we eagerly awaited for any sight of the pod (in hope of some action)! Surely to expend that amount of energy there was going to be a large reward!!! NOTHING! The orca emerged slowly and started to split up, had the missed their chance? WHAT had got away? We will never know….