As SOON as we hit the hotspot, we came up onto a tornado of birds swirling in a dense formation just above the surface! Our immediate assumption was ORCA, but as we edged closer we were astonished!! We had our second encounter of false killer whales which were interlaced with porpoising oceanic dolphins!! The two species were far spread and travelling at speed, surfacing either side of the vessel as we were pushed along by the following sea! The false killer whales breached intermittently, launching their entire bodies out of the water, parallel to the surface!!! The group took us 6 mile before the activity died down, so we aligned our trajectory back toward hotspot. Just before the hotspot, we sighted some promising blows at our rear!!! The orca were cruising with us, riding our wake and spending extended periods below the surface before lunging their entire heads out of the water! We noticed an impressive laceration on the bulls bonnet (nose) that looked VERY fresh (check photos) and painful! We spent over an hour with multiple docile pods at the hotspot before, as per usual, it all kicked off out of NOWHERE!!!
The orca started surging, calves, juveniles, the works!! We were following closely behind for only minutes before the orca honed in on, and drove a BEAKED WHALE to the surface!! The adult strap-toothed beaked whale was already bleeding out from its peduncle and fluke region! The orca’s behaviour with the prey was very similar to what seemed to be a juvenile training drill which we had witnessed earlier in the season! Noosa and split-tip led the hunt, regularly nudging the beaked whale below the surface, showing the young what to do as they attempted to swim right up alongside the animal!! The swell was picking up just as quickly as the wind, resulting in rough and choppy conditions, perfect for the orca to perform and play as they followed closely behind and alongside the vessel!!! The strap-tooth was struggling and launching itself to the surface, gasping for breath as it attempted to find refuge right beneath the vessel and away from the ever increasing number of orca!!! By now three pods of orca, which consisted of mainly females and juveniles, had worn out the beaked whale as they forced it miles from the hotspot! We all waited in anticipation, both nervously and full of adrenaline, for when the orca would make the kill!!
Oil soon splattered the surface, with green plumes submerging as the dark red blood mixed with the deep blue ocean!! The orca thrashed in a frenzy as birds squabbled for a piece of the remains! One bull dragged the majority of the carcass, clenched tightly in its jaw and dragging it deep! The bulls encroached from the outskirts like proud parents, launching their 7-9 tonne bodies out of the water with excitement as the calves soon followed suit! The encounter escalated instantly, soon attracting our friends that have a fear of missing out…the long-finned pilot whales!!! Everything was porpoising today, with each pilot whale surging in at speed! We are consistently greeted by the angry little sausages after each predation this season, still with no apparent reasoning behind the encounters (we would love to hear your theories)! As the pilot whales manoeuvred through the area, the orca pushed to the outside!! Once the pilot whales dispersed the orca (Koombas pod) did one extremely close pass with meat in their mouths as if they were showing off their kill, before heading off into the distance!! As we headed back through the hotspot, there were vast oil slicks dotted at the surface for the next few miles! Today sure was an active day out in the canyon, with six different cetacean species sighted!!!!