Well, there is not much left that can bring our crew to have tears of joy. Today was one of those days. We spent this Triple J Hottest 100 day, deep in the canyon. It began with just a breath of air and the sun peaking through the clouds above. Our passengers were buzzing with excitement for the day ahead.
On arrival to the hotspot, we had to keep our wits about us as… there was no orca in sight… Not the best start to the day but we always stay positive as we have a WHOLE day to explore! We headed west along to our typical lookout spots, it wasn’t before long we could see orca blows – El Notcho and the gang were up to something. There was also a small stampede of Long Finned Pilot Whales in pursuit of the squid hunting orca. Bubbles of oil were reaching the surface as the orca dived to catch their BRUNCH! Fresh calamari was on the menu and the sea birds were making sure to catch anything left behind.
This pod were busy so we went on to give them some space. A long trip west uncovered more Trichodesmia slicks. The low wind and beams of sunshine would be causing the algae to bloom and sit on the surface. A large pod of the angry sausages were coming in HOT from the East. A submarine has clearly lost their torpedos because we saw about 10 on the loose! These torpedos are still showing fetal folds and not straying too far from mum! The pod, of now about 100 pilots, were cruising along the surface. They clearly were celebrating the Hottest 100 day in their own way! They appeared to be relaxed in our presence by spy hopping, rolling onto their back and swimming directly in front of our vessel! A big male was clearly acting as security as he slowly positioned himself next to our vessel. We moved along together for mere moments and the crew all agreed this was the largest Pilot Whale they had observed.
En route back to the hotspot, we sighted El Notcho again. Nothing had changed since their behaviour this morning, they were still busy fishing. We could see another pod in the distance so off we went! A tight group of 12 orca were on the surface. It was Nibbles and Digby!! They were among Razor and Blade plus all the other cousins and family members. Nibbles and Digby are maturing rapidly, with dorsals still growing bigger everyday, they aren’t as playful as they once were a few years ago.
The younger generation in this pod IS still very playful! Razor, Blade, a sub-adult and another mum and calf pair were spending quality time together while the rest of the pod disappeared into the swell. These five were extremely playful! They swam loops around our vessel, rolling and playing Peekaboo with our squealing passengers. I probably shouldn’t have favourites but Blade and Razor will always have a special spot in my eyes. Even trying to describe this afternoon is bringing back an overwhelming sense of joy. Trying to film these five zipping around our boat was getting harder as I welled up. Blade, now three years old was on baby sitting duty for the ‘couple-week-old’ calf. This pair were not afraid of our vessel at all, Blade was showing the little one all the best tricks such as spy-hopping and how to zoom past us as we waved like absolute pork chops from the deck!
Razor slowly passed closely on our port side at one point and BOY she is HUGE! Whether she’s just been eatin’ good or is actually pregnant, we cannot speculate. All I can say is WATCH THIS SPACE. Orca have a calf every 3 to 5 years so being pregnant is a possibility. With an already flourishing pod, it will be exciting to see a younger sibling for Blade. We were lucky enough to be able to take an underwater image of this juvenile today too, IT’S A GIRL!! Blade was melting our hearts as she made us run from side to side and front to back of the boat. Teasing us!
One last pass from this pod, and homewards we went. Crew and passengers alike were stoked on the expedition. HOWEVER IT DOES NOT END HERE!
RARE BIRD ALERT!
Can you believe it after over five hours in the canyon, there’s more! On the journey back in we were able to witness the rare sea bird a BARAU’S PETREL. This infrequent summer visitor is rarely sighted by bird watchers and it flew RIGHT by us. If you blinked you would have missed it! How exciting, and a first for the 2021 season.