In Antarctica there were incredible sightings of Orcas! Have you ever seen an Orca? I’m not talking about the poor captives of Sea World and other marine parks, but killer whales in the wild. I had seen Orcas off in the distance, but in Antarctica I had a bird’s eye view! We sighted Orcas a few times, but on the last day in the Antarctic Circle, in the Ross Sea, we ran into either several pods, or one large pod. They traveled alone, together, and we witnessed a hunt involving several at the same time. *( I did feel sorry for the penguin they caught, though!)
The Orca, or Killer Whale, is a member of the Cetacean Family. There are two types of Cetaceans, toothed and baleen. Dolphins, Killer Whales, and porpoises are toothed Cetaceans. They are a part of our family of mammals. Millions of years ago their ancestor lived on land, but eventually spent their entire lives in the water. They adapted to the marine environment, but they breathe oxygen, are warm blooded, and give live birth, and nurse, their young.
There are different types of Orca, and those populations are currently being studied. The scientists aboard the Lindblad NatGeo Explorer discussed types A, AA, and C. I have no idea which Type or Types I photographed, I only know it was wondrous to see them. Ever passenger on the ship was on the bow!
Did you know that no Orca has ever killed a human in the wild? In captivity, yes. They also do not display the fallen over dorsal fin that many of their brethren do in captivity, so well shown in the documentary, Blackfish. It has never been seen in the ocean. I watched these magnificent creatures, and felt such sorrow for captured Orcas like Tilikum, who must have been mad with grief, with claustrophobia, and with loneliness. Orcas are very social, have their own families with whom they spend their entire lives, their own language and forms of behavior. Orca sons often spend their entire lives in matriarchal pods, with their mothers. For an Orca to be separated from family, from hunting, from migrating…is absolute hell for the animal. Tilikum had had two years of life in the sea with his pod before his capture. I hate to say it, but I feel sure that Tilikum would rather have been dead than in a small pool, performing tricks for the amusement of humans, mourning for his family for his entire life. And yes, of course, I have seen dolphin and whale shows. But no more, and not for a very long time. Never again.
It is a quandary though, as we want appreciation for these magnificent animals, and how to do that for the majority of humans, who will never actually see one in the wild? I can’t say that I know the answer, for any animal. I just know in my heart, to cage a wild animal is surely wrong. But is it necessary? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I am so fortunate, and so privileged, to see animals in the wild, to see other cultures, to travel the world. I am grateful into my very marrow for the life and experiences I have had, and will have. Travel truly does gift one with new eyes, and new perspectives.