Article and images by Anthony Sandeberg

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We finally got to head north. It had been so long since it was “on” and that great feeling of boating around Hell Hole with the boys, not to mention the short journey to get there. It was still dominant south, so the end of the East Face would be working, although I must admit, I love flying low, scratching past the Pie Shop, light thermals coming off the Bulga rocks at the turn of the tide. Spiraling down over the huts, then hugging the trees as I turned tail,

level with the few tourists taking in the view on the south side of Hell Hole…amazed as I scream up and turn into wind just in front of them. Play around for a while then jump onto the cliffs bordered by a fence line where there always seems to be someone admiring the view on their way to or from “that” beach, yeah, you know the nude gay beach!

Anyway, it’s on and we’re soaking up every bit. A little too south to attempt Burning Palms…although not too south for Jessie to attempt, he’s such an arsy bastard, almost always manages to pull it off, with the occasional walk out of Bulga…still with a grin from ear to ear…must be the Portuguese! So Jessie’s kicking tree tops on his way to Burning Palms, Charly’s boating around in his socks and Pierre le Ffrench is high, (up) as usual…and there’s this eruption of white water, a school of 20 dolphins chasing bate fish, again another flock of 15 or so swim by, followed by a gaggle of whales…”hang on, their not whales... “F%$# me, their Orcas.” I screamed. I’ve never seen them in the wild let alone 50m off the coast just north of Stanwell. Five or six in all, diving in and out of the water, the largest about 5m in length, sheltering two babies. I hugged the cliff and got as high as possible and flew out over them to get these images, about eight trips in all, almost coming to grief on one trip as I got so low in my excitement to photograph these remarkable mammals I contemplated landing at Bulga. I managed to climb out on the lower platform about 40m above the deck and headed back to Stanwell. The things you see paragliding!



Orcas at Stanwell - by Tony Sandeberg from adrian bannister on Vimeo.




Unlike the baleen whales, orcas or killer whales (Orcinus orca) are 'toothed' whales [Actually they aren't whales,  they're Dolphins - ED] , with true teeth rather than fibrous plates for filter-feeding. They catch single prey, ranging from fish, squid, penguins, seals, dolphins, porpoises, and even whales, including the largest whale of all, the blue whale.

Orcas are born into a family group and remain with that group for the rest of their lives. As a result, they form very highly co-ordinated hunting packs, which are comparable to wolves or African wild dogs. Once they decide to tackle a prey animal, it often has little chance of escape.

Male orca whales (9.75m) grow significantly larger than females (8.5m). Mature males are obvious due to their very tall dorsal fin. Large males will often take on the most dangerous jobs when tackling potentially dangerous prey, but females appear to be responsible for teaching hunting techniques to their young.

Orca whales appear to use their calls extensively to keep in touch with each other and to coordinate their hunting behaviour.

They are common in Antarctic waters, with a population estimated at about 70,000. They are known to feed on fish and squid, on Adélie and emperorWeddell, crabeater and leopard seals, and on minke and other baleen whales. penguins,

It was also thought that they migrated away from Antarctica in winter, but there have been some rare sightings of them deep inside the pack ice in the heart of winter. Furthermore, small calves have been sighted in mid winter, indicating that orcas are the only species of whale to breed in Antarctic waters.

Previously thought to live on the outer fringe of the pack ice, we now know that they can live deep in the ice, even in winter.

Usually black and white, in Antarctic waters their skins are covered with a film of plankton called diatoms, which gives them a brownish and yellowish hue.

Orca whales are found almost everywhere throughout the earth's oceans. Recently they were seen herding dolphins against a beach in Southern Tasmania, so they could attack and eat them.

In Patagonia, South America, and at the remote Crozet Islands in the Southern Indian Ocean orca whales have learned to feed on young seals by pursuing them to the water's edge. They will even pursue until they are half out of the water on the beach, they then wriggle back into the water, often with a hapless seal pup in their jaws.

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