Orleans Strait & Cierva Cove

Feb 01, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


We started our morning with a pod of nearly 40 Type A Antarctic killer whales! They surrounded the ship, breaching, tail lobbing, and spy-hopping. These are the largest of the Antarctic killer whales at about 6.4 meters. They prey predominantly on minke whales and elephant seals and travel in large groups. They were very distinguishable from the Type B killer whales we saw last night due to the lack of diatoms on their skin, giving them a very clean black-and-white appearance. A seriously incredible way to start our day.

After our breakfast with killer whales, we were off to Cierva Cove. The sun was out, and the water was like glass. It was a perfect day for kayaking. There were gentoo and chinstrap penguins foraging all around the cove and several large humpback whales were sleeping at the surface. During Zodiac cruises, we turned off the engines to drift silently while listening to them breathe peacefully.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. To cool off their sunburns, 37 guests were even crazy enough to jump into the Southern Ocean! With the water at a cool 33 degrees, they didn’t stay long… It was a perfect end to a beautiful day in Antarctica.

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About the Author

Jessica Farrer

Naturalist

Jessica is a research associate with SR3, SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research (www.sealifer3.org) in Seattle, WA. She is currently working on several projects that monitor the health of the critically endangered southern resident killer whale population in the Salish Sea and humpback, minke and killer whales around the Antarctic Peninsula. Her main research interests are the predator prey dynamics of the Southern Ocean and she will be starting a PhD in fall 2020 to investigate the effects of climate change and fishing pressure on the diet of killer whales and Weddell seals in both the Antarctic Peninsula and the Ross Sea.

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