The Battle of Antarctica – by Jeremy Duggan

It was getting cold. We were onboard an old science vessel, deep in the tranquil waters of Antarctica while travelling to the last continent to learn about the environment, the ecosystem and everything in between. Suddenly, we were awoken by the loudspeaker on our boat, still in a haze because the sun had only just come up and the coffee has not brewed yet, but nonetheless, our minds started to process the rude interruption.

Of course, we thought “Did they really just say that”?

“Good morning everyone, it is time to rise ‘n shine and get yourself onto to the upper decks because we are surrounded by whales” repeated the man with the game show-like voice.

By now, we had snapped out of our slumber and we could hear scurrying from the other passengers in the hallway. Naturally, the next step was to don our thickest jackets, put on a pair of boots and wipe off any overnight drool from our faces before making our way to the bridge where the captain was steering the vessel through the freezing waters of Antarctica.

At first, the contrast of the rolling white coastal hills (read: snowy Antarctic mountains) which dipped into the crystal-like waters had us all mesmerized. Then it was the fact that we were standing on top of an old grey boat in our pajamas with a new batch of snot coming out of our noses while staring at too many humpback whales to count; not something we normally get the opportunity to marvel at while working our ‘9-5’ back home.

By now, the man on the loudspeaker was hard at work and almost resembled an agent at a real estate auction, pointing out the different pods of whales on all sides of the boat. The sighting of these massive mammals enjoying their natural environments made us remember where we were and that we were very lucky to travel here.

What we saw next was nothing short of amazing, and something even the captain had not witnessed during all his years on these waters. As we continued to weave through icebergs in the fiords of the Antarctic Peninsula, beneath us was one particular pod of humpback whales enjoying the sun on their backs.

As most stories go, there is a peaceful beginning, a tense middle and an ending that can’t be predicted. This was like no other. This particular pod of humpback whales was about to meet its ‘tense middle’ when the next character from our true wild adventure was introduced.

Queue a pod of ten killer whales all on a mission as they started circling the sunbathing family. Of course, when killer whales start circling, it usually means that they are having a bit of fun with a potential target, or they are readying to form an attack on the weakest link.

And attack they did.

The techniques these killer whales used to try and target to the calf could only be described as frantic and ferocious. Of course, we could not see what was happening beneath the surface, but from what we saw up top, it looked like the killer whales were hungry, and they weren’t going to stop until they had been fed. The adult humpback whales, in retaliation, were rallying for the challenge and managed to do a good job in batting the attackers off.

Now for the twist in the story. Out of nowhere, a little black and white feathered animal started hurling itself out of the ocean at a rate of knots that made it fly over the now-not-so glassy water, ultimately putting itself into the killer whale’s sights and saving the calf from any further trouble.

The unfortunate chinstrap penguin had found itself too far from land to have any chance of surviving against these natural killers. After a minute or so of splashing, it was starting to tire, so to have a breather it found respite on the back of an adult humpback whale’s dorsum while the Orcas continued to circle.

Have you ever seen penguin surfing ontop of a whale before? Us neither, until now!

Credit: Geoff Capentier

Enough was enough and it was time for the iconic bird to try and get to land, so it jumped back into the icy-cold waters before scuttling off towards the bay, taking the killer whales with it. Still, in our pajamas, now with our mouths wide open, we tracked the chase through binoculars as they swam further and further away, but eventually losing sight of them we had to assume the worst for the poor penguin.

As for the family of whales, the ripples had petered out and they continued to enjoy the sun on their backs until our captain fired up the engines again and headed further down the peninsula to marvel at more Antarctic wildlife.

About the Entry

  • Blogger name | Jeremy Duggan
  • Site name | Coming Home Strong
  • Site URLwww.cominghomestrong.com
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  • Why should someone visit your site? Having been to all seven continents and over 80 countries, we know a thing or two about travelling the world. We have seen some of natures best encounters right in front of us and love to retell the stories of our adventures.
  • Entry Number | 3

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