Orcas at the Te Pahi Islands on Christmas Eve

Click the thumbnail for photo gallery

On Christmas Eve, as we were sipping our margaritas in the cockpit, we received a fine Christmas gift of a pod of Orcas swimming along the shore nearby, then right past ADAGIO. It looked as if the Orcas were catching sting rays, which is their favorite food. We had both of our SLR digital cameras at the ready by the cockpit door, one fitted with 17-85mm and the other with 70-300mm lenses. Between the two of us we managed to get a few photos of actual Orcas – not just “where the Orca used to be” or “what is that blurry splash?”.
These Orcas were not as large as the ones we have seen in the San Juan Islands and in British Columbia.  There was at least one baby, swimming close to its mom.  I think they were females except possibly one young male.  Theirs is a matriarchal society, and the family stays together for many years.  One of the photos shows the tail flukes in the air of a very young Orca next to its mom.  You will also see that one of the Orcas has a golden-brown patch on its dorsal fin.  
After the Orcas had swum away, I telephoned Ingrid Visser, New Zealand’s (and the world’s) Orca expert on her Orca sighting hotline (0800SEE ORCA).  Ingrid answered the phone and I described our sighting. She has photo identified all of the Orcas in New Zealand, and studied Orcas in Antarctica and elsewhere.  She said that she and her team of Orca researchers will try to come up to this area soon, to follow up on our sighting and to try to find the Orcas again. We will send her all of our best Orca photos so that Ingrid can send us the names of the Orcas.  
Ingrid’s web site is orcaresearch.org, and her work was featured in a very interesting BBC documentary last year. Having read her book “Swimming with Orca” twice it was time to send to our granddaughter to enjoy.

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