A unique offshore area, south of the WA coastline, is a hotspot of cetacean activity, particularly for orcas.
Story Mandy McKeesick Photo Naturaliste Charters
The Southern Ocean is on its best behaviour as Naturaliste Charters’ 20m expedition vessel Alison Maree motors slowly through a sloppy sea, 50km south of Bremer Bay, WA. On board there is near silence, as though the 70 passengers and 7 crew are holding their collective breath. Then a blow is sighted and humans, novice and experienced alike, exhale in excited shouts. The orcas have arrived.
A female orca (AKA killer whale) turns towards the boat, rolling on her side in a pectoral wave, a calf near her side. From another direction steams a male, known affectionately as Nibbles, his large dorsal fin slicing the ocean until he subsides to swim his 8m frame alongside the Alison Maree, distinctive black and white markings visible even underwater. He peels off into the waves and re-emerges in a glorious breach in the boat’s wake, lifting free of the water to the awe of all watching.
This is Bremer Canyon, Australia’s hotspot of orca and other cetacean (whale and dolphin) activity. From January to April each year, Naturaliste Charters runs tours to see the show, but a decade ago the world didn’t know of this natural wonder. The story begins with filmmaker and adventurer Dave Riggs and, like all good fishing tales, has twists, turns and intrigue.