Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday 23rd February 2013

This morning I was very tired but I reluctantly got up and did the APANSA filter change and the radio sked with all the guy’s up on the plateau. When I got back to the red shed, Geoff and I carried all the rubbish I cleaned out of the upstairs area a couple of days ago, and took it all away to be burnt or RTA’ed. When we got back to the red shed there was a bit of excitement as we could see a few killer whales in the bay near East arm. They looked like they were chasing penguins around. We then saw some more in Horseshoe harbour. Some of the guys grabbed their cameras and headed over to East arm while I decided to head over to West arm.

When I got to the top of West arm I could see about six orcas a long way out and I started throwing rocks into the water in the hope they might become curious and come over to investigate. I was happy I could get some nice shots of penguins with the whales off in the distance behind them. After an hour or so they started getting closer and closer. By this time Peter layt had arrived and we both followed the pod of whales around to the point of West arm where they were only a few meters off the rocks. We were taking so many spectacular photos we both had sore trigger fingers.
 By this time Geoff had joined us when we noticed the pod of whales had a young Weddell seal with them. The whole time they had been playing with the seal like a cat does with a mouse and the poor thing was completely exhausted and close to death. We could see teeth marks on his flippers and he was swollen and battered. They would drag him down and hold him under and blow bubbles at him. It was an amazing display and we all started to yell and encourage the seal to swim to shore and climb up the rocks before he got eaten. All the whales were lined up in a row watching him and he was so tired and weak that every time he climbed up the rocks a wave would come and wash him back off to the waiting orcas. After several attempts to escape and climb the rocks, the exhausted seal turned and swam to the whales and had a five minute stare off. It was like he was saying finish me off you basted’s !!
Strangely the whales didn’t take him, and the seal turned and managed to climb up the rocks just past the tide line and collapsed in a heap. It looked like his flippers were broken and the poor little bugger was completely spent. It was if the whales had brought the seal to me as a gift like a cat does with a mouse. It was amazing and all the whales just stayed there lifting their heads out to look at us. They kept doing this for at least another thirty minutes till they started losing interest and started swimming back and forth past the seal and eventually they swam off. It was the most amazing and intense two hours of my life and only the four of us there can understand what just happened.
On the way back to the station I sighted a huge jelly fish in the water and took a few photos of it. Back at the red shed I up loaded all my orca photos onto the server so everybody could see them and when I came out of my room I ran into Geoff and he said he went to down load his orca photos and he discovered he didn’t have a memory card in his camera !!
Later I celebrated with a few relaxing beers in the spa. The guys thought it was hilarious watching me walk back through the snow in minus two in a white resort dressing gown and a pair of thongs. Cookie whipped up a real nice seafood curry which we all enjoyed with a glass of wine with the best view on Earth. After dinner Cookie & I went for a walk out on West arm to see if the little seal was OK, but he was gone. My guess is he went to sleep and never woke up and the high tide washed him away. (Or maybe the orcas came back and took him?) Life can be so cruel but it was such an honour to witness such an amazing event as a spectator and not to intervene even though we wanted to help that poor little bugger. Later in the Catabatic Bar we toasted to his short life and his will to survive under the overwhelming odds. Orcas are the biggest dolphins and the most intelligent animal in the ocean. I think they were all young female orcas we saw and this display was probably a feeding lesson and also a game to keep the cohesion of the pod.


Can you see the seal ?



These are Type B killer whales – the easiest diagnostic thing is that very large ‘eye patch’ they have compared to the other types. As the photos confirm, Type Bs are seal specialists – so the poor (or lucky) Weddell seal would not have been that surprised!
Type A killer whales have a smaller eye patch and specialise on minke whales. Type Cs have a funny shaped small eye patch and enjoy a nice meal of fish (and some penguins).
The Prey type is not exclusive, but they are each specialists. Type Bs are among the largest. The photos are of females.


  1. I cannot believe you were wearing bathrobe walked to the spa ! i am sure few of them have nice photo of you .. would love to see that

  2. G'day Craig
    Great pics cobber, keep them coming, glad you sort of fixed the lens.
    Cheers B & L

  3. Great photos Craig, l have seen a story like that on a documentry nature can be cruel at times. Mum.x

  4. Did the seal get away? Just had a chance to check out the blog Craig. Fantastic!!! Cheers I'm really jealous. It all looks amazing!! Chris S

    1. Hi Chris,

      I don't know? I went back latter and it was gone. My guess is that it died and was carried away with the high tide, or they came back to get him.

      And yes, I got my lens fixed (what a job that was)