Gray’s Beaked Whale Hunt

Gray’s Beaked Whale hunt unfolded today in the wild of the Southern Ocean as we were witness to yet another phenomenal hunt with the Orca of Bremer Bay. A steady easterly breeze ruffled the surface as the birds absorbed the extra breeze and accelerated their gliding speed to new levels for the day ahead. Arriving in The Patch we were greeted quickly by members of Queen’s family pod who looked immediately to be very focused, tightly travelling together and pushing east. Joining with them the energy was once again serious just as it was on the last day of summer and the body language of the Orca indicated they were once again tracking prey.

The push to the east changed quickly as we could see a wall of white water surging towards us with Orca exploding through the top of each swell. All pod members were heading directly towards us and it was at this moment we were relieved not to be a Beaked Whale or Squid, the power and closing speed of these apex predators is absolutely breathtaking. Blade completed a perfect handstand which turned into a tail lob within meters of us as we all bobbed together at the crest of the swell, what an entrance from the big boy!

Matriarchs Queen, Kidji and Alki began to regroup and we could feel the focus sharpening as the Orca began to move back towards the shelf. Queen hung back as Kidji took the lead and as we moved with her we could see the family pod forming a tighter formation, the hunt was on. Quickly and with great urgency Queen gathered her troops and came charging in on our stern to catchup with Kidji as all took off and whatever they had been tracking in from the east was now back within range. The adrenaline from the Orca spread like electricity throughout the vessel as everyone was on the edge of their seats anticipating what was the next stage of the hunt. Queen pushed in tight alongside the Steep Point as her entire family moved up on our port side as Kidji and her pod members continued to push forwards. The energy changed gear again as we now had the Orca porpoising and completely airborne alongside us to catchup with the head of the hunt as we watched for the surfacing of what had to be a very unfortunate Beaked Whale.

Suddenly we could see the streamlined body of a Gray’s Beaked Whale surface ahead of the Orca. A beautiful individual and incredibly resilient to outmanoeuvre so many Orca in challenging conditions for such a long period of time. The urgency of the Orca was intense as this Beaked Whale was outrunning them at high speeds but Kidji knew just what to do next along with her backup in Queen. Breaching, head lunging and porpoising erupted as over 30+ Orca closest to the Beaked Whale began to cause an enormous commotion and sound which assisted in disorientating the Gray’s Beaked Whale. The surface activity alone wouldn’t stop the Gray’s Beaked Whale as the Orca now needed to combine that with speed and close in the distance. That was exactly what the Orca families did next as they reached top gear and simultaneously landed on top of the Beaked Whale which completed the hunt within moments.

A pang of sadness was felt as the white water was instantly followed by red and we knew that the Orca had once again been successful. Shearwaters and Albatross threw themselves into the feeding zone as they tried to capture every morsel possible as the Orca prepared their meal diligently as usual. Everyone involved in the hunt shared in the feast as further breaching and porpoising unfolded as the Orca celebrated what had been a most incredible hunt. Our final moments for the day were spent enjoying belly up time with Wonks and Stormy as they surfed playfully around the Steep Point. A remarkable experience with the apex predators of our ocean and a great privilege to witness the hunt on such a powerful day in the wild.

Marine Biologist Katy captured the moment of the Gray’s Beaked Whale surfacing

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