Today was TOO GOOD to fit into one blog! So I will attempt to summarise the day as best I can!
To start off…a quote from one of our marine interns “today was like ALL of my previous 6 days put into one! I genuinely don’t know where to start. It truly was the perfect recipe for a great day for orca activity from the get-go! A full “blood” moon, high winds and large swell meant the overall morale on the boat was HIGH from the moment we left the Bremer Canyon harbour.
It was HOT as soon as we hit the hotspot! Two pods in the vicinity, the majority of the animals were orca that we’d sighted for the first time for 2020! Mako was BACK, AND a BRAND NEW, FEW DAY OLD, TINY ORANGE calf!!!!! We have named it “Neo” as it darted around, porpoising so fast at the surface that the sound effects we made as it swam alongside its mother were “neeeeoooowwwww”! Neo is definitely the SMALLEST NEO-nate we’ve EVER witnessed! The youngster was SO fast you’d miss him surface if you blinked! Over and over the calf leapt its entire body out of the water JUST to breathe! Way too cute!
It was so great to watch the bull Mako look after the newborn! He was never more than two metres from the mother and calf, often sandwiching the calf between the two as they cruised right alongside us! The sheer trust we encounter from these apex predators is so incredible to watch! We’ve never seen a newborn so close to the vessel!
Identifying individuals that we rarely see is always fun for the staff as we love debating about which animals we each think they are! So many “clean” fins meant both customers and crew were attempting to get ID shots of their eyepatches as they surged in and down the swell, and beneath the bow! It became quite the game! The orca seemed to play along as they ALL decided to go belly up, glowing as they shot toward us…NO dorsals in sight!
We spend the ENTIRE morning with over 30 orca surrounding the vessel, still right on the hotspot! The orca weren’t displaying any hunting behaviour all morning, just socialising with the orca on their recent arrival. Alki, Billie, Tarni and her calf were amongst the newbies. Two matriarchs Noosa and Split tip were there to kindly greet the newcomers.
By the afternoon the wind had picked up significantly, enough to HUNT! Even though there were no signs of disturbing the newborn Neo, we wanted to give the new mother and her bub some space so we cruised…for only MOMENTS before sighting OIL SLICKS out ahead!
We frantically got everyone in off the bow and punched over to the ever-increasing number of birds that swirled above the slick. It HAD to be a mammal that they’d taken down from the sheer amount of oil that dissipated over the surface! The rough whitecapped ocean soon smoothed over and glimmered in the sun. We could even smell the oil before we could ID the animals that had partaken in the event!
Of COURSE, it was split-tip right amongst the action! The likelihood of a predation always increases by 99% when we have her in the canyon! It all became quite ominous! Orca were spread as far as the eye could see! Sea and salt gushing over the bow, drenching the people that were game enough to persist out the front! The other two pods we’d been with all morning had beaten us there! Nibbles, Digby and their gang had made an appearance too! We’d missed the takedown by moments!
For the next 2 hours, we were at the epicentre of the ACTION! The pods had all separated and distributed the meat out amongst each other, their co-operation really does equate to their EXTREME success! We had orca alongside us sharing and dropping the meat RIGHT under us! Once the orca have eaten they’re ALWAYS more playful and today was no different.
Orca of ALL ages began to tail-slap, spy-hop, the occasional porpoise AND upside down BREACH at every angle. Nobody knew where to look! Pieces of meat broke the surface as the orca surged in toward us with it clenched tightly in their jaws! The males bolted in toward us at speed, sharking in, only rising the tip of their dorsal above the surface as it wobbled and cut through like butter!
We didn’t want to leave!!! We hadn’t even turned to boat toward home, orca at our 5, 6 AND 7 o’clock rose up the swell and surfed in and under the stern just beneath the surface! We all ran to the back of the boat, more blows becoming apparent on the swell lines that were headed straight for us! The large males had to top the females! Porpoising to begin with! The cheers got louder! Breaches after that! Pulses of orca in groups of 3-5 sprinted beneath the vessel and toward the bow as if they were escorting us home!
As we picked up speed we all stayed at the back! SO MANY orca surging out of the wake and our white water, it looked as if they were smiling! You had to look up to see the orca on top of the waves and they continued to plummet in toward us! Surges to our port and starboard, we were SURROUNDED by at LEAST 50 orca!!!! This was the BEST end to a day we’ve EVER witnessed! Check out the customer/crew shot of everyone on the back deck once the excitement had settled…a little!
I could’ve written 10 pages more but I think you all get the general consensus of the day we had! This is one for the memory bank that’ll be hard to erase. P.S we can’t WAIT to keep you up to date with new little Neo!