The Beaked Whale That Got Away

The Beaked Whale that got away today was incredibly fortunate as the Orca worked throughout the morning to find him before the storm arrived and the ocean erupted in activity. It was set to be an exciting day as the calm before the storm had settled in and we were expecting a change in weather just after lunch, previous days like this have always been exciting in the past! Calm conditions made for a lovely trip out to The Patch as we arrived and with minimal birdlife the dorsal fin of Echo stood out clearly just up ahead. Arriving in the area we watched carefully for the next surfacing and much to everyones surprise Echo surfaced right next to us on our starboard side as we all chimed in with our good mornings to this beautiful boy. He was not alone as we sighted his mother Cooee travelling nearby and we could observe the pair working together. Deep dives and silent surfacing’s indicated they were listening intently to their environment and it was clear to see that the other pods nearby were also working together as the Orca net was spread far and wide.

It was Beaked Whale focused foraging with silent movements by the Orca and slight shuffles of movement as they ensured the area they were working was surrounded by apex predators. It would only be a matter of time before the Beaked Whale surfaced within that trap or managed to evade the Orca. The weather front was moving in as expected and with this change of weather came an explosion of energy from the Orca as we have observed in the past. Breaching erupted as the previously hidden pod members were now clear to see within a kilometre range of our location as the communication flowed from one orca to the next. Queen surged past the bow as her pod followed and we watched amongst the misty rain as the breaching continued before they moved in together and it appeared they were closing in on the Beaked Whale. All members of Queen’s pod breathed deeply before rounding out into a very long dive as we waited for almost ten minutes expecting them to surface with the Beaked Whale.

Queen and her family returned to the surface a few short meters from where they had dived and seemed despondent, the Beaked Whale had got away. The depth we were in was just on 1800 meters which is almost double the range for the Orca and outside of their preferred depth zone. It was interesting to observe two further deep dives but they also resulted in no Beaked Whale unfortunately for the Orca but what a special day for the Beaked Whale. Escaping the oceans apex predator is no easy task and the two advantages the Beaked Whale have in breath hold and dive range were both available for this individual today and resulted in a miraculous get away. Queen seemed ready to begin the next stint of searching for this elusive Beaked Whale but after four hours of work it was time for the calves to play and unwind. It was a perfect way to complete a fascinating day with the Orca as the youngsters played and socialised together and around the Steep Point excitedly. Orca are at the top of the food chain but today was a perfect example of just how hard they need to work and not every hunt results in success, much to the relief of todays Beaked Whale!

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