Another calm day out on the high seas for orca watching! With a large weather high moving across the bottom of Australia, we have been graced with calm winds over the past few days with the easterlies continuing into next week. With a loooong swell period we had a BIG rolling swell today.
As we dropped over the hotspot we weren’t greeted by anything! The hotspot was empty… Aside from the shearwaters gliding above, there was not a single cetacean in sight! Sometimes this happens, but no worries as we have a full day out in the canyon! So off we went. Scanning, searching, scanning, searching. AHA! BIRD SWIRL! We ventured over with the big swell behind us and discovered a pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales with a dark cloud above of shearwaters eagerly awaiting for any brunch leftovers!
These pilots were super relaxed and wide spread making orca watching easy. There were a few youngsters, some only weeks old! A tiny silver torpedo still displaying fetal folds continually porpoised out of the water. It was most likely still trying to work out exactly where its blow hole was…
A very ostentatious juvenile began swimming right in front of our bow. It flipped upside down, flicked its tail at us and even blew us a very loud raspberry with its blow hole. It was attracting our attention and obviously the other pilots too as more joined in on its silly behaviour. We had pilots of all ages spy hopping, swimming upside down and pec slapping around our vessel. Earning their name “Pilot Whales” as they guided us forward on a safe passage.
Pilot Whales are one of six species, along with Killer Whales which are commonly referred to as Blackfish. These Blackfish are all arranged under the ‘oceanic dolphin’ category. This results in some confusion as whale is mentioned in both their names.
We continued on into unsearched waters and then sighted the big distinctive dorsal of El Notcho. This big adult male and his tall dorsal caught our eye from, literally, a mile away! We spent yesterday with this pod and they were still up to their usual antics, swimming. They cruised along in a well spread area, with oreo and swirl coming close for a better look at us!
Due to the large swell, when the orca surfaced we were often below them being down in the trough of the wave while they’re at the peak. There’s nothing to match the feeling of having to look UP to see the orca.
Another amazing day out on the sea, orca watching, with plenty of sun soaked faces who are going to sleep well tonight dreaming about the Blackfish we saw on our expedition.