Bremer Canyon really is a place to see to be believed. When people book on to come killer whale watching with us, they are often super excited to get to see orcas in the wild. This in itself is an absolute blast. Then, there are those days that the ocean and all her inhabitants have something extra special in store, making this place next level. Relaxing – not so much, but epic – oh you betcha! There are days out there when we literally get to see a wild orca show!
February 27, 2020, The day in Bremer Canyon Killer Whale Watching that had it all….
“Double the Ceteacea species, triple the kills, quadruple the orca pods and unlimited smiles today!” was how our ever knowledgeable and enthusiastic Marine Biologist Pia Markovich described the orca show.
So this is how the epic day rolled out… Be warned, this one is a little gory, but as we know out in the Bremer Canyon, this is life.
After a lumpy journey out, we crossed the continental shelf and into the canyon system. Here water depths are 80-100m across the shelf, then vary between one and four kilometers once we get into the canyon system. The bathymetry below us is a complex ancient river system of canyons and abrupt changes in depth. This amazing seascape below is one of the main reasons we see such a profusion of life at the surface. As we moved above the deep sea canyons in dark and wind chopped waters, the surface was littered with the white caps tumbling from the tops of waves – typical of a ‘windy’ day.
But on approach we realised these were no ordinary white caps, they were surging Orca!! Surging orca move with purpose and with pace. They lunge forward, punching out of the waves and getting high up out of the swell to take a breath, and in doing so displace a spray of water which arches either side of their powerful silhouette. These orca were surging and moving fast from port to starboard side! When the crew see surges we get so pumped!!! To us, this is code for ‘the orcas are hunting, they are moving fast and they are working together to chase something in the depths below’. Before our passengers even had time to get their orca spotting eyes in and comprehend what was happening, a large commotion occurred only a few hundred metres from our bow! We had literally arrived at this special and auspicious location we call the hotspot, and in front of our eyes were killer whales finishing a hunt that may have been going on for hours before! We saw a streaking firework of blood and white wash mixed together, concentrated with the black figures of the scavenging seabirds flesh footed shearwaters, the monstrous wandering albatross accosting the kill from above and huge orca bull dorsal fins exploding upwards thundering towards the water’s surface. We had literally motored directly into a kill. As we were pulling up, so were another pod of orca who must have been attracted to the frenzy and come in as back up.