On the ship I work, the Ortelius, there used to be a poster about different types of Orca. Ecotypes they were called. This did trigger my interest as they did look very different from each other, especially the four Antarctic types. Because of this I started reading more and more (scientific) articles about these different types. It turns out they don’t only look different, they have different behaviour, different food preferences, different calls and probably even different mtDNA. In fact, we might have several different species of Orca instead of only one species as it is now.
With this new interest I am of course trying to see as many of these ecotypes as possible. On Antarctica there are four different types, A, B, C and D. A and B are easy on the peninsula. There are only a few records of type D ever, making that the hardest one. But type C is also not that easy to find. They are rarely seen on the Antarctic Peninsula and over 50% of the world population lives in the Ross Sea (hence the proposed name Ross Sea Orca). But as we happened to be in the Ross Sea one of my biggest wishes for this trip was to see this particular ecotype. And we did… One evening we were cruising along the edge of the pack ice (the preferred habitat for this ecotype) and there they were! All along the edge of the ice, as far as we could see there were blows. It is known that Ross Sea Orcas have much larger pods as the other types, on average around 50, but I guess at this time there might have been several pods along the ice. In beautiful evening light we saw blows everywhere and closer to the ship we could see small groups patrolling the edge, looking for Antarctic Toothfish, their favourite prey. For me definitely one of the highlights of this trip!