Orca gymnastics after a hearty three meals!
As soon as the hotspot was reached it became obvious that the orcas had post feed excitement from breakfast! As many as 3 pods were present, including many calves, in the vicinity of an oil slick. They surged around the vessel, coming past us belly up, setting the standards high, very early, for the interactions for the rest of the day.
Mid-day. It was lunchtime, and the orcas knew it!! Two pods dispersed on both the port and starboard sides and began distinctively tail slapping, communicating to get the attention of other pods in the area. They had found something that they wanted to share! It wasn’t long before we were soon surrounded by at least 6 pods which were visible from all angles of the vessel. For at least 15 minutes we witnessed constant breaches!!! Initially the calves began to leap so that they were fully visible above the water, which then sparked the adults to get in on the action. Male orca can weigh as much as 10 tonnes, and soon they were airborne only metres away from us! As they flew through both water and air, other pods began to assemble, and they created a formation with at least 9 adult females heading the chase, with Split Tip; the well-known matriarch, in the centre.
Birds also assembled, swirling low above the activity, anticipating meat to come to the surface. The orca started to spend more time diving, and it was soon apparent as oil began to pool above that a kill had occurred! Most likely a beaked whale had been taken on its surface for air, up from the depths. We soon saw parts of it, paraded around, hanging out of the mouth of the orca as the pods swam past, visibly sharing the meat amongst one another. In contrast, ten of shearwaters quarrelled in the slick, flying off with small chunks they had scavenged for themselves.
The afternoon came and we couldn’t believe our eyes!! The orca were clearing hunting again! It was time to observe predation number three for the one day! Wonks, Moon and Split Tip (out of some of the more noticeable dorsal fins to identify) were spotted amongst others who had clearly made a kill, with a slick and meat again visible in their mouths as they swam past. The breaches, tail slaps and close passes continued until we eventually had to leave the hotspot, the orcas clearly content with their extremely successful day in The Canyon.