A large male Type C Orca checking out the ice edge. We had sailed from the Ross Ice shelf into McMurdo Sound. We visited the historic huts of Scott and Shackleton (outstanding experience!) and then headed to the ice channel created by the icebreaker Polar Star to allow shipping access to McMurdo Base. This channel is a boon for wildlife. We saw many Adelie Penguins and South Polar Skuas plus a solitary Emperor Penguin and a Leopard Seal.
As we sailed down the channel there were about 20 Orca swimming along the ice edge in search of food. This caused the Adelie Penguins to make a rapid exit from sea to ice! There were adults and calves. In this sequence a large male Type C Orca can be seen checking out the ice edge.
There are three Antarctic ecotypes of Orca; Type, A, B and C which in fact may be different species. Type C Orca are found in East Antartica and have a very distinct, narrow eye patch which rises in a diagonal from the eye towards the dorsal fin. They have a distinct and very dark dorsal cape. The white patches appear orange-yellow because of staining from diatoms. These animals reach some 6m in length and feed predominantly on fish
Note: Type A are circumpolar and inhabit ice free waters off shore feeding mostly on Minke Whale. Type B Orca are mostly found around the Peninsula closely associated with the continental ice pack and feed predominantly on Minke and Humpback Whales.