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


Jessica graduated with a degree in evolutionary biology from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Since graduation she has worked in fisheries management on commercial fishing vessels in the Bering Sea, counted Steller sea lions from cliffs in the Aleutian Islands, tagged sea lions in the Galápagos and monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and for four austral springs she lived in a retrofitted refrigerator container on the Antarctic sea ice near McMurdo Station. In Antarctica she worked on a long-term population study of Weddell seals and hopes to continue working in this ecosystem on predator-prey dynamics of the Ross Sea. 

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