Our Wildlife Guide, Lynsey Bland sent in this incredible report on the recent Orca sighting during a St Kilda and Outer Hebrides cruise
Whilst guiding with Hebrides Cruises, I have been lucky enough to have had many incredible wildlife encounters over the years. However, my latest encounter on Emma Jane will be one that I, and all those on board will never forget!
The Emma Jane was making her way across the Minch to the outstanding island of Mingulay when Skipper James spotted a blow, followed by the unmistakeable dorsal fin of an orca, or killer whale. With all alerted, we scanned the sea for these beautiful marine mammals, unaware of the encounter to come. It very quickly became clear that these orca were not John Coe and Aquarius- likely the remaining two of the resident West Coast Community.
Guests and crew alike were delighted when 3 individuals surfaced very close to the bow of Emma Jane, one so close that you could see the whole animal underwater! With the engines off, the group made several very close passes around the Emma Jane and we observed the group hunting or playing with a grey seal. The sound of the blows alone is standout memory from this incredible encounter. We even witnessed two individuals spy-hopping-a behaviour assumed to be the animals having a good look around
Very quickly, one of the females was recognised as Mousa of the Northern Isles population and with help from Steve Truluck, the whole pod was identified as the 19s pod which more commonly frequent the waters around Shetland, Orkney, Iceland and the east coast of Scotland. With matriarch, Mousa and her calf Tide, were bull orca, Gunnar, Summer and Trinkie. It was great to see Summer and Trinkie back in Scottish waters as they weren’t seen with the 19s when they were last identified in Scotland! Mousa was the first individual to be matched to an Icelandic photo ID catalogue and one of the first individuals confirmed to travel between Iceland and Scotland on an annual basis.
Over the years with Hebrides Cruises, I have been lucky enough to witness our resident John Coe and Aquarius on a number of occasions, but to come across a thriving pod of orca, witnessing hunting behaviour and spy hopping in Scottish waters will remain as a standout encounter in my memory forever.
Lynsey Bland, June 2023
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