The wind was up and it was feeling fresh out in the southern ocean today with an average of 15 knots. It isn’t icy-cold yet though, in fact when the suns shining it feels like mid-summer again. An orca filled hotspot meant we were spoilt for choice on encounters.
First up, Picasso and Patch!
Two orca who we haven’t observed yet this season, they both have stunning eyepatches which mottle on the trailing edge! Looking very similar we wonder if this is a typical example of phenotype – an observable characteristic from an animals genetics. For example: are they related since their eye patch looks the same.
Pilots came charging in from the West! A big group of mum and calves escorted by a handful of large mammals, we were on the feeding zone and they wanted to be there!! With shearwaters and albatrosses in their shadow they filled up the ocean space around our vessel. Our eyes caught sight of something that wasn’t quite like the other. A bottlenose dolphin and her calf! Maybe a dolphin-pilot hybrid? It certainly isn’t unheard of having mixed species calves.
Back with the orca and we were now hanging out with Nibbles and Digby’s pods. About this time in 2019 Razor had her calf Blade, so maybe this pod were celebrating her birthday? Blade certainly appeared in good spirits – maybe its all the blue whale blubber making her feel great! She came zooming in past us multiple times, and was causing a ruckus in the pod. While all the other orca were swimming down the swell she was positioned on the surface, in their way. They pushed past her without giving her too much attention, this clearly wasn’t her desired outcome so she did it again!
An Anatomy Lesson: We didn’t ask for it but we certainly got it!
A sub-adult, Nibbles and two others appeared right on our stern! Talk about confident bulls… One male slowly rolled onto his side and his raised his head. Mouth now open and tongue out! 😛 It can be really hard not to attach human emotions and characteristics to orca especially when they act like this. They are mammals after all. The cheeky manoeuvre had us laughing, however he wasn’t done showing off. His head sunk back under as his belly button lifted. He did a banana back-bend and it wasn’t his pink tongue we were looking at anymore!!! It was his penis! We were now in hysterics! How cheeky!!! Was he showing off to his larger male companions? Or maybe even a sign of submission? Either way he just showed off two of the most vulnerable parts of his body and gave us a full orca anatomy lesson.