Report prepared by: Lindsay E. Smith
Photos by Dave Mitford.
Killer Whales Off Wollongong
At 0800hrs on July 8th 2002 we headed out from Wollongong Harbour aboard the Sandra K to conduct a SOSSA research trip as part of our ongoing albatross studies. As we neared the continental shelf break in 90 fathoms (180 meters) of water we came across a pod of twelve or so Killer Whales (Orcinus orca). The pod consisted of mainly females and calves but was attended by one large male, which appeared to be with a lone female approximately two hundred meters ahead of the main pod.As we approached to within 300 metres of the slow moving pod, the boat motor was stopped and we drifted slowly taking in the amazing spectacle of the whales frolicking in the calm conditions. Suddenly, one of the killer whales surfaced within meters of the boat, swam around and under the vessel, and snapped at an unsuspecting Indian yellow-nosed albatross as it passed. The whale appeared very curious and swam directly up behind the stern of the boat, to within a few meters before diving and swimming under the full length of the boat. The whale then swam around the boat a couple of times before spy-hopping at about 100 metres distant before swimming off to join the now departing pod.This fantastic close encounter with one of natures truly magnificent creatures, left all on board in total awe of the amazing spectacle that we had just witnessed.
According to most field guides killer whales are believed to be quite common in Australian waters, however in over 200 pelagic trips east of Wollongong in the past 17 years, they have been recorded on only three occasions. So in the waters around Wollongong it would seem they are far from common.
© Copyright SOSSA 06.08.02