Today’s first sighting of orca consisted of two pods, becoming three in just moments! The wind started to drop significantly, making for incredible visibility and flat silky grey seas! As we encroached on the pods of orca, we spotted surges in the distance, too far to see whether they were coming towards or away from us! At a closer glance we discovered it was a pod of angry pilot whales chasing the orca toward us! 1 bull, 2 bulls, 3! The orca fled from the pilot whales that heavily outnumbered them! Just like that, the energy was over as quickly as it started! Soon becoming playful orca, with the juveniles splitting off from the adults who charged ahead. For 30 plus minutes we were entertained by the endless playful interactions between the young group, after our 8th spy hop we lost count!
We have been waiting in anticipation for the perfect weather to deploy the underwater camera to the bottom of the hotspot which lies 1000m below the surface and today was the day! The low swell, weak currents and lack of wind were the perfect combination! We dropped the camera over, taking 20 minutes to reach the bottom, where it laid for 10 minutes before reeling it back in! As we headed away from the hotspot we came across the same pod from earlier, still as playful as they had been prior! Another pod soon came to join the social behaviour, nudging each other out of the water whilst making the most peculiar vocalisations, the sound of pure joy!! Screeches from the calves and the sound of raspberries from the adults were emitted from their blow holes right beside the vessel! Split tip swam with her mouth WIDE open toward her calf whom was on her side tail slapping to propel her small body across the surface!!! Tumbles, porpoises and backflips made up the messy white wash filled area in front of the vessel! WHAT AN AMAZING SIGHT!!! It wasn’t long until we sighted surges yet again! This time, heading toward us from much closer, the angry sausages were at it again, almost a pre-empted strike of such! The orca surged away from us at spews as the pilot whales came in from our port side, herding the orca, almost as a protective mechanism for their TINY calves safety! The two species soon split off from one another and the orca started to meander at the surface once again. On our way back in we spotted blows at a 45 degree angle (SPERM WHALES!!). As we ventured toward the 60 tonne animals it was too late, they had already dived! We decided to deploy the hydrophone, hearing their clicks nearly instantly, which dissipating as they deployed deeper and deeper!
On the way home the entire boat sat in the cabin around the screens to watch the footage from the deep sea camera and it was INCREDIBLE to say the least!!! It was such an amazing moment to finally delve below this incredible ecosystem and have the first look at the silty seafloor after 5 years of expeditions and wonder of what was beneath us! We had only reached the 500m mark when the screen lit up with a silver gleam, flash past the camera, everyone started to scream!!!! WHAT WAS IT!? We kept playing hoping to find more, it wasn’t long before the flashes were back in front of the camera! We paused the footage, slowing it down frame by frame, uncovering an unimaginable sight! Once the weighted device hit the bottom we all cheered, this is the FIRST GLANCE at the bottom of the canyon!! What a feat! The camera tilted down at the seafloor, which was covered in white soot and a diverse array of microbial matter! Planktonic organisms swam around the water column just above the bottom as the camera lifted. For only 10 minutes at the bottom we came across SO MUCH life, and many indescribable critters!!!! Each time the camera rose people starred in suspense, what would the next piece of footage unveil!!! We can’t give away too much, so you’ll have to come out here and check it out for yourselves! Today our customers were part of something so special, a first in the canyon and a moment we will never forget! Until tomorrow…to be continued!!!!