Today was a day for feasting orcas!! On approach to the hotspot there was evidence of a large oil slick giving the surface a “blue silk-like” impression as birds swirled above which indicated the main event, a predation, had already been made not too long before we arrived! With passengers eager to see an orca, glimpses of passing dorsal fins were accompanied with the soothing sounds of “ooh” and “ahhs”. However we sensed we were not welcome as the orca didn’t approach and since they lead the interaction off we went to find some who may want to play!
Off into the distance more birds and dorsals were spotted, so we traversed eastward heading deeper into the Hood Canyon which makes up a section of the Bremer Sub-Basin where the sea floor drops to 1500m.
To the left, to the right and ahead of the boat orca began surging and we anticipated that another chase was on! The orca were now 500m away and moving so fast we could barely keep up, when the easily recognisable Split Tip cruised on in with a huge chunk of blubber and meat!! It is always thrilling to see her and this time she was flanked by a small calf and a sub-adult, undoubtable sharing their catch! Unfortunately we were too late to witness the kill but it was thrilling to see the extent of the cooperation that exists between them!
With the boat now in idle, we were instantaneously surrounded by social orca, especially an inquisitive calf who was spy hopping and rolling around on top of her mum right next to the boat! What a sight to behold!
This display didn’t end there… it was as if they were showing off their catch as three more orca glided over with a substantial strip of meat and stopped RIGHT NEXT TO US!! It was jaw dropping to witness these three who seemed totally un-fazed, one holding the now unrecognisable prey and the other two taking mild bites, sharing the meal! This once in a lifetime chance to witness such relaxed and close proximity feeding lasted for almost three minutes!! The sub adults who would weigh approximately four tonne were incredibly gentle and it was as if time had frozen as we looked down upon them from the bow.
With their bellies full the orca began to investigate the boat, gliding effortlessly past underwater eyeballing the passengers on the stern deck and then before we knew it they disappeared into the depths and it was time to come home.
These memories will be kept with us crew and the passengers on board for a very long time, what a special day!