We didn’t even have to look for the Orca today in the canyon, spotting a huge oil slick just off the shelf with 2 dorsal fins piercing through. It was only 10:15 and we had found them. We made our way over to investigate what they might’ve just killed, essentially causing the oil slick. Oil slicks on the surface are caused by the release of fatty tissue into the water after a kill. Oil slicks are not only a good indicator of possible surrounding Orca but also of sharks below.
This oil slick attracted 4 sharks and over 50 birds including our commonly seen flesh footed shearwaters and 3 species of albatross (Indian yellow nosed, Wandering, Black browed). On approach we rushed out on the bow just as the Orcas began sharing their meat. We watched as the larger of the group held the meat while the others pushed up close to tear strips off. While sharing the meat some of the animals took deep dives raising their tails right of the water to possibly catch dropped meat. The dropping of meat for the rest of the pod to pick up is a sharing food technique observed in multiple parts of the world. In Norway the Orcas have been noted purposefully dropping seal carcasses for the rest of the pod to feed on. Here in the canyon we have also observed this behaviour on occasion with mothers dropping food for their calves.
We watched as they surfaced slowly, moving past the bow giving our passengers a glimpse of the large chunk of meat before diving beneath the boat. We wondered what might’ve just been taken out of the gene pool moments before as they paraded around the oil slick. Two surrounding whaler sharks lingered below off our port side looking for spare leftovers from the Orca’s kill, conveniently passing our underwater pole cam.
Once finishing their meal, the Orca became more active rolling around playfully before weaving beneath our vessel. Our rear deck passengers ran from the port to the starboard to watch as the Orcas surfaced, the calves tailing lobbing and slapping. Out of the 6 surrounding us we noticed the familiar dorsal of El Notcho. El Notch is a regular to our Bremer canyon voyages, recognisable by the notch taken out of the middle of his dorsal fin.
Moments later the energy changed and the Orcas began to surge, bringing everyone in from the sea door we picked up our pace to keep up with them. We hurried behind to see if they were on to anything but soon called their bluff as they settled into a more relaxed pace. They began gliding through the water in a line formation surfacing in sync making for an excellent photo for our passengers on the bow.
After following behind for quite some time the weather conditions intensified and the captain called last drinks and we made our way back into shore.