Orca in the Bay of Islands

Orca in the Bay of Islands

Written by Samantha Hale (from the USA)

Unfortunately the tap by the rock was more than we bargained for and the Orca Research boat spent the morning in the mechanics.  Luckily the whale gods were good to us and the amazing guys at Marine North (http://www.marinenorth.co.nz/) repaired the boat by the early afternoon.  We were running around town doing odd jobs when the hotline rang!  Orca in the Bay of Islands was obviously much more fun and we were on our way.

It seems that Nibble and his crew are getting quite used to the boat as we had the chance to view them yet again.  This time there was heaps of socialization and we spent many hours following them around into shallow bays as they hunted, tail slapped and practiced aiming their blows directly into our camera lenses!  Nice one guys, I really appreciate having to clean my lense for the millionth time ☺  As the sun started to set they got down to business and hunting behavior became the predominant activity.  At this point they had passed through Albert Passage, and as I navigated extremely small channels, Ingrid was in the water trying to get some footage of them hunting.  At one point she witnessed one of those moments that you wish you could just sit back and watch over and over again.  This is the story she told when we drove home.  “There were a group of 5 animals head down towards a rock crevase trying to get at an eagle ray.  As the adults were working, there was one juvenile female (the one that breached in Tutukaka the other day) who was just so persistant that she join the hunt.  When she couldn’t squeeze in amongst the adults she would squeal and shake her head until they parted and let her in.  Unfortunately for her she could not hold her breath as long as the adults and upon every breath she would swim up to me, blow bubbles in my face in frusteration, take a quick breath and resume her ‘hunting’ activities.  At the same time that this was happening, a large adult male was lying on the thick kelp on his side with his pectoral fins almost touching each other.  Apparently he thought he had the best seat in the house as he was just lying waiting for the others to get the ray.”

As always it was hard to say goodbye to the animals, but the sun was setting and we had to go home.  On our way back to the boat ramp we saw a small dingy with divers in the water close to shore.  At first we thought that the divers were all participating in a diving rescue course as they were all waving, but upon approaching we found out that their engine had died and they were trying to swim the boat to shore.  We insisted on them hopping into our vessel and we towed them home.  Along the way we picked up their friend who had attempted to canoe back for help.  Moral of the story: if you see a boat and its passengers doing something out of the ordinary, it never hurts to check it out!  If not for us, those poor guys would have had a pretty bad night.

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