Killer Whales

Orca orcinus

 

For images, click on thumbnail to enlarge (all photographs © Sean K. Todd 2000, use by permission only)



Orca #1



Orca #2a

Orca #2b

Orca #5

Orca #3b (mother)

Orca #4a (calf)

Orca #4b (calf)

Orca #5

Orca #5

Orca #2c

Orca #2d

 

 

During the expedition we encountered a pod of 5 transient killer whales. Killer whales are currently divided into two races - resident and transient individuals. Residents tend to maintain residency in specific locales, feeding on fish, while transients tend to be nomadic, and opportunistic feeders, sometimes forgaing on other marine mammals - commonly, seals. In this encounter the pod was in fact chasing a crabeater seal. However, the seal escaped by using the hull of our vessel for cover. The orcas settled instead for a meal of penguin.

Photo-identification of orcas requires capturing the left and right hand sides of the saddle patch, an area of pigmentation immediately behind the dorsal fin, as well as observing the fin morphology itself (which is often diagnostic of gender). We took these shots using a Canon GL1 digital video camera purchased on behalf of Allied Whale by Abercrombie and Kent Global Foundation. The images below are freeze frame video-captures. Using video to photo-identify animals rather than 35mm still cameras has advantages and disadvantages. While you can capture the entire surfacing sequence on video, it currently lacks the resolution of still photography. Also, witnessing the event live can be somewhat confusing with multiple surfacing events happening simultaneously. With video playback, and careful examination of the images, we can deduce which animal is which.

The below animals are identifed by number (#1, #2, etc.). The letter following the number indicates sequential shots of the same animal (ie, #2a, #2b, and #2c are all the same animal).

This pod was encountered in Anderson Sound, 63°37'S, 056°43W(see map).

 

Male orca #1, right hand side (RHS). Note the tall dorsal fin typical of males. Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

Male orca #2 (RHS). Note that the coloration of the saddle patch, and the scarring on the trailing edge of the dorsal fin, indicate that this is a different animal to that above. Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

Male orca #2 (RHS). Image captured slightly later in surfacing sequence. Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

A second juvenile (determined from size) orca #5, (LHS), possibly female. Lack of immediate association with the mature female of the pod (below) indicates that this is probably not this year's calf. Note the very faint coloration of the saddle patch. Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

Female orca #3, left hand side (LHS). This animal was associated with a calf, indicating that it is the mother. Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

Calf orca #4a (LHS) associated with female (mother) - see above. Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

Calf orca #4b (LHS) associated with female (mother) - see above. Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

Female mother orca #3, left hand side (LHS). Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

This animal is difficult to identify due to the angle of the shot, but it appears to be the calf, #4c.

Male orca #2c (LHS). Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video

Male orca #2d (LHS). Frame capture from Canon GL-1 digital video