The action comes to us
Then there was the leopard seal and the dead penguin. It was a large, brown, strange looking penguin, no wander he killed it. So to help set us straight , the leopard seal slapped that crabeater seal back and forth over the water until the pelt came off and floated across to our zodiacs, and he continued slapping that crabeater seal so the head came off, the surface of the water was coated in oil, and a hundred (precisely) pintado petrels gathered to scramble for bits. And he continued to slap, flap and tenderise that seal until every seal and every penguin and every tourist knew that this leopard seal meant business, and he eats crabeater seals for breakfast.
But the prize goes to the orcas and the chinstrap. The orcas were harassing a minke and a penguin here and there in the distance. Then they picked the chinstrap that just wouldn’t die. The little chinstrap that could. The fastest, scaredest, most out-of-breath chinstrap penguin that the southern ocean had ever seen.
The penguin was a smart one, and decided that this big blue ship might provide it some shelter. So the orca family of one small, 4 medium and one ENORMOUS BUS followed Chinny leisurely across to our vessel. The chinstrap took great leaps from the water, beak agape, with a side spin to dive off-center, and then flip around back through the toothy whale pod. Chinny took to flying out against the hull and bouncing off into the orca-swirling ocean, up and down the starboard, around the stern, up and down the port side, the ship listed as all-hands-on-deck ran to the port side, “OPEN FIRE!!!” as cameras fired at will, 8 frames per second, and the penguin bounced off the hull again to backspin into the centre of the pod, and the orcas all manoeuvred a tight turn around the bow, and the ship rocked forward and the staff mowed down passengers to get the shot, the fancy photographers with mile-long lenses were too zoomed in, and the penguin charged down the starboard side, the ship listed 10 degrees to starboard, the air warmed up from the effect of a thousand point-and-shoot-camera flashes, memory cards burning with blurry images of snowy backscatter against a black sea, and the staff raced down to the marina deck to see if Chinny would land on board, leaning over the water to see the little feather-dart whizz by, then leant right back in horror as it was pursued by Jaws et al at close range, and in slow motion. The penguin is gasping, the orcas are charging, the flashes are melting, the trigger fingers are cramping, the staff are on their eighth lap of the deck in an unprecedented spontaneous marathon, with bedazzled passengers in tow, not sure whether to watch the staff frenzied acrobatics, leaping over railings, or the orcas casually chasing the penguins whose feathers have all but dislodged.
Passengers “HOOORRAAAAYYYY” marks the moment the chinstrap affects its final blow to the starvation of the orcas with a manoeuvre so dexterous, so cunning – the double twist, back-flip, side-spin, ultra-curl move - never before seen by all the krill in attendance. The orcas retreat towards the rising moon, the penguin bounces merrily into the setting sun, only to have to explain to his spouse why he is late and with no chilled krill in the belly. The guests who survived the frenzy limp indoors, the staff take hours to stop salivating over the story, eyes glazed over as the amount of ship circuits by the hunt party increases with every repetition of the story.
In Ushuaia we compared orca-death-match stories to another expedition team who witnessed the same thing but with a large seal in good daylight – BOOORRRRRIIINNNGGG!