Today marks three days in a row of predations!
On arrival to the Hotspot we knew today was going to be special. The amount of shearwaters swirling in the skies above this area could have been residual from the past two days of action. However we were hopeful that it meant they were hanging around because they knew they were in for a feed.
Orca were sighted almost instantly on arrival to the Hotspot…
If you are new here then let me explain what the ‘hotspot’ is that we always talk about!
Do not be mislead by the name as the temperate here is an average ocean temperature of 20.5 degrees in summer.
A mere 24 nautical miles south of Bremer Bay is the convergence of the continental SLOPE and a series of canyons. This is where the continental shelf (that Australia sits on) drops away to become the “Abyssal Plain”. Sounds pretty desolate right? It basically means huge flat areas of sea floor. By flat I mean EXTREMELY FLAT.
If you can picture the scariest sea creatures like gigantic squid, blind 10 legged-starfish and even bioluminescent fish with teeth emerging from all the directions. Yeah, those critters, they live here at the abyssal plain. In between the continental shelf and the abyssal plain is the SLOPE. It means exactly that, a slope. The sea floor rapidly drops away from 80 metres deep to over 800 metres. This sudden drop off looks like an underwater cliff face.
Due to these topographical features, an upwelling of nutrients is created where cold nutrient dense water is pushed towards the surface. This, in turn with methane seeps within the canyons, creates a complex food web and an area of high productivity. This has resulted in the name “Hotspot”.
Back to our daily blog:
Orca were sighted almost instantly on arrival to the Hotspot. Two distinct pods in close proximity stole the show this morning. We became baby sitters for two juveniles from a pod that included the adult bull Maleko and the appropriately named Tatty. If we could give the young orca a human emotion, today it would be CHEEKY! The two youngsters dropped behind the rest of the pod and then darted over to our vessel. Riding along the swell to pick up speed, their dorsals were “sharking”, barely breaking the surface. With a swift tail flick they would change direction and POP out of the back of the swell. They did this over and over again, not too sure who was having more fun… us or them!
The large number of sea birds were still prevalent after lunch and they must have known they were about to be in for a treat!
Within minutes our two pods became FOUR! The orcas had all formed a wolf pack! Cooperation leads to their incredible success rate. Today proved this. Was that a hint of oil in the air?! The sea birds honed in on the source of the smell like flies on … garbage. The birds have such an acute sense of smell that they can determine exactly where the food is as it is carried along, dead or alive! They raced and squabbled on to an ever increasing oil slick! With blood and a few sightings of something grey it was hard to tell what was going on!
Making it even harder to concentrate was the fact that we had at least FOUR matriarchs do a slow-swim-by the boat at some point throughout this predation. Split Tip, Noosa, Cookie and Tarni each took their turn. Whether this is a greeting to the hunt or potential food offering to us, we cannot be sure but either way they all had intent. A passenger described it perfectly, “Did time stand still for everyone else, or was that just me?!”. Agreement rang from the rest of the passengers on the bow.
We were in amongst it, the killer whale hunt.
The orca kept it PG rated for us with minimal carnage. All this happened below the surface. However they were enjoying their afternoon feast and we were enjoying the company of more than thirty Orca. No matter which direction you looked you could see activity. These are the best days!
Who reckons we can go for FOUR days in a row of predations?! Tune in to tomorrows daily blog to find out.