25/02/21 End of an Era
My LAST day….
As we left port this morning I was reminiscing the past three years that I’ve had the pleasure of working aboard the Alison Maree. From the orca interactions to the customers you meet but most importantly the incredible crew that I’ve worked alongside, all making each day better than the last. The Bremer Sub-Basin is one of the few places in the world that you can work for three years and STILL be gobsmacked each and every day. The diversity of marine life and the rarity of encounters are far beyond what you could ever imagine.
A few things instantly came to mind, the most memorable being the FIRST orca calf that I encountered (BLADE)! The TINY neonate was blood red in colour and oh so adorable! Every day that I witnessed the little tacker was a good one! Knowing the youngster was alive and well warmed my heart as their first year is always their most vulnerable. On our return each season we’d always impatiently await in anticipation of the day that we’d come across the new generation of Southern Ocean killer whales. By now, Blade is three years old and today, after not seeing the pair all day, they popped up in our last moments in the canyon to quickly come and say goodbye! This was a very special moment and I’ll be requesting regular updates of Blades shenanigans from the crew!
Today was treacherous, to say the least! The seas were roaring and the orca were active! On our arrival to the hotspot, we were greeted by three bulls all BREACHING! One JUST off the bow and the other two either side! The show continued for 20 minutes as the big boys surged us westward and under the bow, chopping and changing sides.
The next sighting was white water eruptions dead ahead. Split tip and her pod popped up RIGHT at the bow out of nowhere! The pods were off again, we barely had time to catch their tail 😉 before small oil slicks began to glistened at the surface. The orcas were snacking all morning but there were no signs of a significant sized lunch. I’d secretly hoped for a full-blown hunt on my final day but social, surfing orca was more than enough!
By lunchtime we had four pods punching back into the swell past our vessel and toward the hotspot once again. Maleko, Koomba, Nani and Noosa’s pods were spread far and wide. The birds were swirling everywhere making it hard to discern where a pod started and ended. The wind was picking up and some of the swell lines were quite impressive! So much so that it was easy to give me a parting gift, drenching me on the bow while everyone laughed from the dry comfort of the wheelhouse as white water soaked me to my socks!
Once we reached the hotspot the orca were ready to play! Each pod deciding to make a beeline for the bow, surfing toward us with only their dorsal fins breaking the surface! My squeals and “cackle” penetrated the depths of the canyon trenches enticing every orca in the vicinity over for a quick hello! The calves hovered at the hull, clearly interacting with us as we cheered and waved! It was hard to decipher who was looking at who! I swear the orca remember my high-pitch squeal (and so do the customers as I ruin all their footage with my excitement)!
The surfing and surging went on for the rest of the afternoon making it VERY hard to turn for home! Once we did, the orcas escorted us, riding our wake and porpoising out of the whitewash! Moments like this are what are left imprinted in your brain forever. Seeing customers smiling ear to ear with their cameras up (attempting) to capture the action as we all bond over the incredible natural world we’re witnessing is another stand-out for me! I hope this area is protected and locked off for all to enjoy for the eons to come! This definitely isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later! That’s Brodee Elsdon signing off!