The action began today before we had even dropped off the continental shelf. A large mass of birds gliding above the water’s surface gave away the location of a very big pod of what seemed to be dolphins or small whales! A bird swirl with a few hundred pelagic birds, including shearwaters and albatross’s, caught our attention and on closer inspection we could identify the splashes in the water were from FALSE KILLER WHALES! They are the third largest member of the dolphin family, growing to on average five meters for females and slightly larger for males and were named due to the similarities in their skulls to the Killer Whales (Orca).
There was an estimate of over two hundred in the single pod with a few bottlenose dolphin friends in the mix too. False killers have been known to converge non-aggressively with other dolphin species and although their diets are squid and fish dominant they have been observed attacking other marine mammals, just as the Killer Whales do. This big pod were feeding all around us and Machi Yoshida one of our on-board photographers captured a jaw-dropping image underwater of the pod with a bottlenose dolphin closest to us and the false killer whale behind it looking right at the camera!!!
This was the FIRST sighting of False Killer Whales in the Bremer Canyon for the 2019 season and reminds us that we never know what surprises a day out in the canyon will bring!
Now it was time to find some real Killer Whales, so we ventured back into the hotspot and found a pod of approximately six Orcas. They were milling about when two giant green liquid-clouds surfaced… it was ORCA POO! They had swum past the boat and left some presents behind..!
Their behaviour didn’t change much for the duration of our long afternoon interaction except they were surfacing each time closer and closer to the boat teasing us as they swapped from port side to starboard side and back again. They were not interested in us today just going about their own business –obviously spending their lazy Sunday relaxing in the hotspot with the family! This pod was made up of a new female to this season, she has two distinctive notches missing from the posterior (back) of the dorsal, a large male who is also un-identified, new to this season but has been spotted multiple times already this year, and a few other females and calf to round out the pod.
A Giant Petrel and Wandering Albatross kept our punters excited throughout the day too! The Australian Sea Lions that call Glasse Island home were also spending their Sunday afternoon relaxing in the sunshine, the large bull who hadn’t moved spots since yesterday kept a close eye on us as his harem of females and pups rested.