Whenever anyone asked me what I was most excited to see in Antarctica, I always responded that I wanted to see orcas. Growing up in Montana, I’d traveled to both U.S. coasts, but I’d never done much whale watching. I was super anxious to see “the wolves of the ocean.” I’d been told that it’s common but never guaranteed (as with most animal sightings in Antarctica) to see these magnificent whales on expedition cruises.
Early on our second full day at sea, we got our first sight of land since leaving the Beagle Channel. As we passed through the Shetland Islands about midday, we heard the announcement I’d been hoping for: “We have orcas on port side!” I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so excited. At first, they were several hundred yards away, huddled pretty close together. Our talented captain began pulling the ship around so we could stay near them, but they were plenty curious on their own. Within minutes, they were right next to the ship. I was grinning from ear to ear and kept punching Karen in the arm because I just couldn’t believe it. They’re truly beautiful animals, and I could tell they have a lot of personality as they interacted with each other and put on a show for us. I tried to soak in those moments as much as I could, in between snapping photos. While we were lucky enough to see orcas again a couple more times during the trip, this first time was the most magical and the closest they ever came to the ship.