We worked hard for our amazing encounter of the orca kind today. We arrived at the canyon to a small but welcome increase in bird life, sighting Black Browed and Shy Albatross, as well as shearwaters and storm petrels. Gradually though, even the birds began to decrease. Where had they gone? And where were the orca?
We continued the search, tracking east to west, then up into the shallow waters of the continental shelf, and then toward the deepest waters of the canyon, an area we know as no mans land. Nothing. Lunch time came and went. The boat was quiet, all eyes scanning the sea. By now, the sun was low in the sky and our afternoon would soon need to draw to a close. Never say never at the canyon though.
Suddenly, the energy on board changed completely. A single black fin had just cut the surface, so fleetingly we wondered if we had imagined it. We stared at that small section of the vast southern ocean, and if hope alone could make the animals appear, there was more than enough on board. Seconds that felt like hours ticked by. Then, as if they had been there all day, multiple shiny black dorsal fins scythed the surface, followed by the majstic forms of a pod of Bremer Canyon killer whales, including the familiar fins of El Notcho, Cookie, Oreo, Swirl and Torpedo.
All on deck were galvanised instantly. Whoops rang out as the pod surfaced again, along with a few muttered, more colourful versions “about time” from passengers and crew alike. The pod surged through the swells, heading straight for us.
Suddenly, we were surrounded. Patches of light aqua from the animals white markings, seen through the clear blue water showed clearly, marking the forms on the incoming orca as they rocketed in our direction just below the surface.
They raced under our feet, turning back for repeat performances. We tracked them determinedly, and called locations and distaces to make sure we were all looking in the right direction. They still surprised us many times, sneaking in under our feet to shouts of surprise when they surfaced.
We also had a surprise close pass by a small manta ray to add some diversity to our afternoon.
The pod were never far away over the next two hours, surfing the swells, heading in our direction again for a close pass occasionally. We forgave the for their late arrival. After all, late orca are better than no orca!
The Bremer Canyon Crew