Today, our leader Dundee took us through the Southern Ocean doldrums, weaving in and out from hotspot and beyond, our path making glassy tracks across the smoothest of seas. Days like this require a high level of detective work, some keen long-distance vision, a fair dollop of patience, and a whole lot of experience in finding the ‘elusive fair-weather pods’. The shimmer and glean of blue, grey and silvery hues on the surface water would have been perfectly superimposed by a soundtrack of molten psychedelia from Tame Impala.
Breadcrumbs kept us going, in the shape of a pair of Sperm Whales travelling, their characteristic 45-degree angled blow. We cruised alongside them, giving space and awed by their size, they continued on their journey. When ready to go dive, the Sperm Whale arched its back, sliding down to the depths as its bulbous spermaceti filled head descended, and a final farewell of its fleshy tail sliding into the blue.
The anticipation of our Orca search built, with each moment we continued scanning the seas in calculated sweeps. Several hours were down, and finally it happened, celebrated with an eruption of shrieks and shouts, the Orcas appeared flashing across our path. The collective thrill of excitement felt like a breaking deluge pouring from the skies, during a thunderous storm.
It was something about how we were made wait, that made today feel so very special.
Our persistence paid off in the most delicious way. The clear and viscous seas, where each water particle appeared to cling together as if we were cruising on a massive sea of jelly wobbling in smooth waves beneath our hull. The light danced, and the Orcas cut imposing figures. We spotted animal after animal with distinctive marks, dorsal fin notches and bent fins, yellowish tinge. Did they come from the South?? They were a strong and motley crew – we were in a buzz! To the catalogue of Orcas, we headed, these were not our common pods of late. Noosa was there, her distinctive curved dorsal fin with two notches. But the rest??? Who were they? Look, to be honest we are still trying to figure that out. One of the big Matriarchs made our jaws drop with her muscle tone, she was STRONG. They moved like clockwork, at the surface and cruising along, then collectively diving for 8 mins… And up they would come, together, this motley bunch.
We were buzzed, satisfied with grins wide as we headed towards home. With smooth seas we made quick timing back for shore, but would you believe, the ocean had more in store. 5 miles out from shore at 60m depth, the water 22 degrees, we saw a huge splash to our starboard side. Edging over in the general direction we were gifted with a show. A young Humpback, maybe 9 months old was breaching!!!! Over and over, it was energetic and high on life. As it jumped and splashed, in the golden glow of the setting sun its white and lined belly shone bright. Its mother was nowhere to be seen, we mused that she may be in the depths below, as they are known to do. Close by, Black Browed Albatross were cruising, catching in the building breeze and finally settling to raft up in groups of 5 and 6. The ocean after this epic day finally darkened, the clouds full of golds pinks and blues.
Even on the calmest of days, today it was revealed to us that… RESEARCH NEVER SLEEPS! How could it?? And as we motored back to the marina, the setting sun in front of us and the breaching humpback continuing its dance of elevation behind us, we pondered. What was this juvenile Humpback doing here just now? And so many breaches, what was it saying?? Where did the other pods of Orca go on this fine day, and who were the pod we were blessed to hang around with? And the Sperm Whales?? How deep were they diving? And were they capturing the huge and ferocious giant squid of our expectations? And that our loyal friends, is why we are so buzzed to come back here to this spectacular part of the world, day after day, rain or shine. Because as Lyn and Neil, our many-day passengers, and intrepid ocean adventurers say, ‘it’s not what you see, it’s what you might see’.