Orca hunt Dwarf Sperm Whale for the first time ever recorded in Bremer Bay. An incredible moment to observe and document for our research team onboard as we continue to learn more about the unique diet and life of the Bremer Bay Orca. The morning started with relaxed Orca we have not spent time with since last season as Meeka and her family pod cruised past our bow with little DC now much bigger. Playfully approaching our bow the rest of the family were in forage mode as DC continued to swim with us happily. It was shortly after that the females exploded forward with momentum and surged only eighty metres ahead of us as a commotion began to take place. White water was flying and we knew instantly that a hunt was taking place as the family encircled their prey. A huge amount of red-brown liquid spread and at first we thought it was blood but on closer inspection and identification of the species we were amazed to confirm that this was a Dwarf Sperm Whale.
Rarely observed in the wild and a species very little is known about the sighting today came as a big surprise. Known to frequent Australian waters hunting squid and fish it is not unusual for this Dwarf Sperm Whale to find itself within the same foraging ground as the Orca. The Orca were fast and decisive as they powerfully rammed and flipped him which finished the hunt quickly. The photographs captured today by Stormy and Grace were fantastic in identifying the process of this powerful and significant hunt. Lead researcher Grace was able to collect images of the upper body and distinctive square head as Stormy could document the fluke and excretion of the red-brownish fluid that is released when Dwarf Sperm Whales are stressed or attacked. It was sad to see such a rarely observed species in this situation and being just under three metres in length he seemed so small in comparison to the Orca.
The rest of the day was spent sharing their meal as the family fed and once bellies were content the calves then enjoyed some social time swimming around and underneath us playfully. Today was not only significant due to this being the first ever documented Dwarf Sperm Whale hunt in Australian waters but we also met a new member of the population, a baby Orca who is without a dorsal fin. The youngster is only four to six months old and on the first surfacing we could see that the dorsal fin is cleanly missing, very similar to another older Orca within the population known as Lucky. The calf was healthy and happily swimming alongside mum, the sweetest little thing and to our amazement was even involved in the hunt.
Indicating that this little ones mum is one of the elders in the family and an important part of the hunting team. A truly remarkable day and another Bremer Bay Orca first for our team, every season holds wonderful opportunities. Orca we meet and their name inspiration is often based around an event or person at that point and time in the season. This way the Orca will always remind us of that time in history and as we met this little baby Orca for the first time we thought of an Aussie legend and larrikin we have recently lost in Shane Warne.
Regarded as one of the finest leg spin bowlers in the history of cricket and impacting the game with the “flipper” it was with great sadness for many around the world to hear the news of his passing. Australia and the world of cricket will miss him and we will nickname this special young calf Warnie as he is missing his “flipper” as we will miss Warnie and his legendary “flipper”.
RIP Shane Warne (Warnie)