The Day the Orca came

orca-banner-2Wednesday, 14 December was surprisingly warm in Wellington, still hovering around 21 degrees at 4:00pm. So after a quick exchange of texts, and a mad dash home to beat the traffic, by 5:00 pm the two Kevs were heading up through the Seatoun tunnel for a circuit of the peninsula before tea. Still warm, but the calm of the city had been displaced by a blustery nor-westerly – albeit a warm one – which made for a slow ride. Luckily for us as it turned out.

The local newspaper site had been reporting all day on a pod of around 5 orca, which had been spotted in the outer harbor earlier in the day, and had also come into the inner harbor briefly early afternoon. We had been jokingly discussing the outside possibility that they were still around, and we may spot them out in the harbor if we were lucky. No great hopes though, as the water was being stirred up by the gusty winds.

Orca at Point Halswell, Wellington

Orca approaching Point Halswell, Wellington

Then, there they were – not out in the harbour, but virtually at our feet, only a few metres offshore. Initial attempts to film them were thwarted by passing cars and slow reactions getting the camera out, but they were heading the same direction as us, so a mad dash around to Point Halswell gave us time to get ahead of the pod and film them as they passed.

The earlier reports had suggested five orca, including a large male and a calf. We counted six in the leading pod, with another 3 – 4 following behind as they rounded Point Halswell, heading up Evans Bay toward Shelley Bay.

A ride to remember: a fine Wellington day, a warm breeze, deep blue water – and the bonus of unexpected visitors close to shore.

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