To our delight the ocean wasn’t anywhere near as rough as anticipated! The wind dropped right off making the 4m swell a quite pleasant and beautiful sight! The orca rode the swell as it jacked up over the 1000m contour line from the depths. Customers were almost peering into the sky in order to view the orca which rode the prevailing swell toward us! You could see the white pigment from their saddle patches just below the surface, almost teasing us as to when they would appear! The dorsal fins cut through the swell like butter as they dived below the bow and beneath the vessel, only to pop out at the stern right alongside us! We arrived at the first pod only moments too late!! The oil slick spread rapidly over the surface surrounding the vessel! The pod spent the majority of their time sub-surface as they started to disassemble the carcass of their recent kill right in front of us! A lone orca proceeded to come alongside with a large chunk of meat in his mouth, almost as if he was showing off for the customers! The sub-adult male was in fact slater!!! This is our first sighting of him for the season. Slater continued to do tumble turns and rollie pollies just below the surface whilst still tightly grasping his piece of the kill before darting back off to the pod! As the action diffused the group began to disperse, whilst a female, her calf and another juvenile stayed and played near the bow! The inquisitive youngsters will quite often endeavour to approach the vessel whilst their mother attempts to hold them off! We were lucky enough to witness the juveniles make multiple close passes near the stern once the poor mother relented defeat! Throughout the day we encountered at least three pods first of which being….El Notcho, Cookie and Oreo of course! We also positively sighted Alki, another growing and boisterous male! We sighted Nani for the first time this season, him along with another known female – Billie, have grown considerably since last year and were accompanied by a pod which all displayed extremely yellow pigmentation on their eyepatches! This colouration or “cast” is consistent with type B orca and is caused by a diatom infestation on their skin! At this stage we can only speculate that the pod may have travelled amidst the cooler, nutrient rich waters of the sub-Antarctic since last season in order to be inundated with diatoms! Stay tuned and buy your ticket to be a part of the research!
Black, white…and YELLOW?
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