Familiar Strangers

New Zealand is rich in cetacean wildlife, of all kinds. Together with the duskies, short-beaked common dolphins are perhaps the most numerous of the familiar crew. They live there year-round, roaming around the two islands, making their homes in many of the numerous bays.

Once in a while, there are visitors from Antarctica. Small, greyish coloured killer whales with enormous eyepatches and a skin full of algae. Pack ice killer whales, also known as ‘Type B’s. Sightings are few and far between, but it could be that they make this round-trip every year. They may seek New Zealand’s warmer waters to shed their skin, and lose their cast of diatoms with it, for the frigid Antarctic waters are too cold to do so. It has been confirmed that Type B killer whales in a different part of the Antarctic make such trips to South America.

And the Type B’s are not alone – Type C (Ross sea) killer whales are also sporadically seen in New Zealand waters, possibly for the same reasons. Even though human encounters are rare, it might be that these whales come by much more frequently. The resident common dolphins must see them from time to time. Every year visiting, in small numbers, silent, and not nearly as dangerous as the resident mammal-eating killer whales.

I wonder what they might think of these familiar strangers.

– Digital