Tonight I gave the first part of my two-gig presentation. After all, that is why I am here. I was just showing the Part 4 of my Atlantic video, the triumphant arrival in Antigua, when a member of the professional staff came over and whispered in my ear, “There are killer whales outside. We might have to leave the Q&A till another time”.

Killer Whales

I spent the remaining 2 minutes of the video in agony. Forget the presentation, I wanted to be out there seeing the whales!

The moment the video was over, we made the announcement, and I high-tailed it out of the lounge along with (or even ahead of) everybody else.

It turned out that these were not just any old killer whales. These were the “Type A”s – not meaning that they were ultra-competitive and driven, but rather than out of the 3 general types of killer whales identified by scientists, this relatively rare type are larger (around  10 metres, or 30 feet) and prey on large mammals.

Scientists in hot pursuit

While we all piled out on deck to take photos, the onboard scientists launched a Zodiac and set out in hot pursuit to try and take a tissue sample using a harpoon gun. This involves shooting from a distance of around 10 metres – not too far, not too close – a dart that would extract a small and painless sample from the thick whale hide, allowing them to find out all kinds of information about that whale – its gender, diet, and even whether it was pregnant or not.

From our vantage point high on the Explorer, we could see the merry chase that the whales were leading the scientists. From their low vantage point, bouncing around on the waves, they couldn’t see so easily where the whales might next surface, or when the whales were behind them.

Red-coated homo sapiens

Standing on deck, we were shouting, “it’s behind you!” like the audience in a pantomime…. but to no avail. They returned empty-handed. The joy and frustration of scientific field work.

In the course of well over 100 presentations, in over a dozen countries, I had never before been upstaged by a bunch of killer whales. But that’s okay. I can speak anytime. Killer whales – well, there’s something you don’t see every day.

No Antarctic blog would be complete without at least one penguin pic

15 Comments

  • I’m amazed you were able to finish your slide show at all. Glad no one was hurt in the stampede (out to see the whales 🙂

  • This is just great Roz ! We all feel your enthusiasm and part of this journey. Thanks for the super shots as well. Currin (back in NZ for awhile)

  • This is just great Roz ! We all feel your enthusiasm and part of this journey. Thanks for the super shots as well. Currin (back in NZ for awhile)

  • Here’s a funny story I’d like to share. I teach college. After class today a student came up to the desk to ask me a question. I noticed he was wearing a “row…” t-shirt. I asked about it and he said he is in crew with the university. I asked him if he’d ever heard of Roz Savage. He wasn’t sure. “You know,” I said, “the one who rowed across the Atlantic and Pacific and is about to row across the Indian Ocean.” He walked away muttering “some people are just crazy.” He didn’t even say thank you and goodbye. I thought this was very funny. Roz, I wonder if you ever get that response!

  • The type “A” are also called “Transient” Killer Whales. We have them in Johnston Strait where they come in and feed on the salmon. There is a protected one kilometer square area for them ( and any other whales) to scratch their bellies on the nice rounded rocks under the water. There is also a research station where they have been observing the killer whales for more then 10 years across from “Robson Bight” the protected area.
    The Transients can travel many miles and are not set to stay in any one place. Sometimes they travel with another whale but rarely with a pod.
    If you’re interested in Killer Whales Ntional Geographic made a movie many years ago titled “KIller Whales the Wolves of the Sea. Well worth your time to watch it.
    Do not be afraid and do give them their space they need to feel free in their roaming. They are gentle and won’t harm you if you respect them. Ann Johnson.

    • …there’s “resident, transient, and deep water” orcas… You all must Kayak (OK, row) Robson Bight area in Johnstone Strait in B.C. Canada. Just most Wonderful.

  • Thank you for all of the blogs that take all us on your trip. while pondering Denver’s weather, I wonder about the weather and other conditions during Antartica’s summer. Here, we reached 67 deg F (19.5 C) last week, while today the high was -1 deg F(-18.5 C).

    And, hope you are not seeing any plastic pollution down there.

  • Dear Roz, Had the good luck of seeing you at your lecture in Portland, Oregon, USA. Gave you some books on whales. GLAD to see you got to use them! ALWAYS enjoy your writings! Am homebound for a short time so seeing the world though your eyes is even more wonderful. KUDOS

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