Bremer Orca Hunt Blue Whale today as this phenomenal event took place and we were privileged to be witness from the moment of the Orca finding the Blue Whale until the heartbreaking moment of its last breath. The morning started just like any other and the only surprise was the amount of families in The Patch, four different pods were milling about happily. The focus did indicate that they were on the lookout for food and as the calves socialised in creche pods the adults stretched out and covered the full area of The Patch as they continued to forage. Noosa was spotted all on her own and south east of the heart of the feeding grounds which seemed slightly odd, so we kept a close eye on her as Alki and her family surfaced just ahead. The sequence of events that followed happened so quickly as the Orca exploded into action, surging towards the west as they often do when something has been found. The urgency could be felt and the surge was short as only 100 meters to our port side the ocean began to glow blue and our hearts sank… it was a Blue Whale that the Orca had found. Noosa had called out and all Orca within close proximity had accelerated to help her, but the Blue Whale knew that he had to keep swimming.
It was incredible to watch the Blue Whale and Orca surging side by side, the hunt had now begun and the intensity was at its peak with all involved full of energy and adrenaline. White water exploded as the enormous bulk of the Blue moving at such speed created a dangerous situation for the Orca who were trying to keep control of the Blue and stop him from racing away from them. The surge continued for over half an hour as they edged towards the shelf when a secondary vessel arrived and completely interfered by parking directly in front of them all including our vessel instead of keeping to the required and safe distance. It was of great concern to everyone onboard including a member of Parks and Wildlife. Understandably this did affect the hunt as the Orca that had been moving towards the Blue Whale were now cutoff from the vessels influence and had to divert before being able to regroup. The hunt continued towards the west and the Blue Whale appeared to be gaining distance in front of the Orca, but that was when we observed a change of tactics as other pods moved to position themselves in front of the approaching Blue Whale. Breaching, tail lobbing and tail slapping were used to try and disorientate the Blue as he powered towards them but we could see he was starting to tire.
The hunt had now past the two hour mark and only now did we start to observe the Orca gain more control as they began to target the rostrum (upper and lower jaw) of the Blue Whale. Throughout the world it has been observed that the lips and tongue are the preference of Orca who hunt baleen whales and today we could observe the Orca repeatedly targeting that area, even trying to push their heads inside the mouth of the Blue Whale to reach the tongue. It was difficult to observe, the hunts on such large individuals will never end quickly as they are simply too powerful and determined to give up without a fight. The process of increasing in speed, slowing down and attacking the rostrum continued for the next hour as the Blue tried to evade the Orca which now numbered over 75 individuals who had gathered from far and wide. The Orca were persistent and put themselves in dangerous situations as they moved underneath and around the huge fluke of this Blue who would aggressively launch skywards before crashing back down, the Orca had to dodge and weave to avoid being struck and killed. At one point the Blue stopped in its tracks and the Orca began to push as they tried to roll him over in an attempt to drown the Blue but to our concern they began to push him directly towards the side of our vessel.
He dived below us and the Orca followed before he tried to make another break from them, but everywhere we looked an Orca could be sighted. The Blue Whale was now completely exhausted and matriarch Queen knew this, it was now time to end this battle. Watching her carefully, she moved up to the lower flank of the Blue and began to bite which caused the Blue to lift its enormous peduncle skywards. Queen continued this as the damage can be sighted in the photo below, she targeted the same area repeatedly while the rest of the Orca moved in on the rostrum. Pushing down, the final moments of the hunt were heartbreaking as the head of the Blue Whale was driven down by the Orca and as his fluke slipped below the surface it would be the last time we would see him. The Orca, after three physically exhausting hours of battle, had completed the hunt and now could safely consume their meal. The depth of the kill sight was 80-90 meters which is an easy dive range for the Orca as they would all dive down to retrieve their meal. No more than ten minutes later Pilot Whales surged in to investigate all the commotion that they had heard, yet another 100+ cetaceans were now on scene as hundreds of birds flocked and an eerie peace settled around us as the sun began to sink towards the horizon.
Today was a privilege to witness two of the most incredible creatures to have ever lived on our planet in a battle like no other in the animal kingdom. The life of this Blue Whale has provided for the life of thousands as all the birds, fish, sharks, pilot whales and orca in the vicinity received a vital meal today. The wildlife we work with are all interconnected and dependant on each other in many ways for success, the Orca are vital in their role to be the ones to provide food for so many others. Our dear Blue Whale today certainly broke our hearts, a precious member of the still recovering Blue Whale population. We are grateful for the life of every living creature and their purpose in the world we live in as today the courage of this Blue Whale will remain with us always. We would like to thank all of our Pod Members for their capacity to appreciate the event they witnessed today and your love, respect and compassion for both the Orca and Blue Whale.