What a show we received today with the Orca playing, tumbling and jostling together right beside the boat. However this wasn’t the case for the first pod we came across in the canyon today. The first pod was a cruising group of surface swimming orca, we recognised El Notcho and Cookie as well as her calf Oreo. They remained on the surface for a short time before taking longer dives. When surface swimming orcas will breathe every 2-4 minutes, however its easily to loose track of where they are as they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes. As their dive time was greater than 6 minutes we soon realised that they weren’t much interested in us so we left them and moved on.
As whale watchers we believe its important to put the whales first in every expedition to the canyon, judge their behaviour and leave if we are not welcome. Nevertheless moving on we found our social pod of orca.
We approached the pod of and watched as they began swimming in synchronised trios and quartets up to the boat and interacting with our visitors. Much to the delight of our passengers the Orcas also began diving beneath the bow before popping up on the starboard or port side and then meandering around the rear deck, ensuring everyone got a good view no matter where they were standing and were so close that one of our guests had to clean her camera after getting a cloud of orca breath on her lens!
The Orca began changing up their pace by rolling upside down and turning over beneath the boat as well as forward lunging and porpoising at times. We cheered them on and clapped as they playfully performed leaving whale footprints on the surface. A whale foot print is the disturbance of water when the whale flicks its fluke (tail) in a downward stroke.
Enticed by watching them play we constantly scanned the horizon to see where they’d surface next. While scanning we noticed a fairly fresh oil slick and realised they might have been hunting as well while we were there.
They surfaced again and met us back on the bow greeting us from the deep. At first glance they appeared to be just the single pod, but moments later we realised there were at least 3 pods. They began socialising the orca being very tactile and rolling over each other, a killer whale scrum.
The action wasn’t all just between the killer whales, we also noticed a black browed albatross calmly sitting on the surface, atop of the circling group of orca below. The whole boat stopped and stared. Was the albatross not aware of the danger? Or was it well aware there was no danger? The hair on our neck stood on end as we watched 4 Orcas seem to contemplate the easy meal just brushing past his feet below. Not at all phased by the looming orca beneath him, he stood his ground. Moments later we watched as a similar thing happened to the Indian yellow nosed albatross. The Indian yellow nosed obviously wasn’t taking any chances and fled the waters surface immediately, perhaps the better course of action. So much action in one day, thats the way it is most days at the canyon.
The Bremer Canyon Crew