The Superpod

As I raised my head out of the deep blue sea, I was gasping for air, I felt like no matter how hard I tried, there wasn’t enough air coming through my lungs.  I was surrounded by icy cold blue and desperately held on to a little white lifeline that was attached to a slowly moving 10 meter zodiac. All of a sudden I felt a certain kind of freedom setting in. I let go of the line that I up to now was clinging on to as if my life depended on it and I started swimming away from the zodiac. And all I could see was blue. Not just any kind of blue, but a blue that words cannot describe. It seemed as if the horizon merged with the ocean, it all became one shiny blue. No landmass was anywhere close to me. A deep blue as far as the eye could see. But here’s the silly thing about this instance, it didn’t swallow me up, it didn’t make me fear for life, quite the opposite happened actually, all of a sudden I just felt at home. And if I could have suddenly turned into anything that could life in water, I would have been alright with that.

But I am a human being (still) and I still live on land. Now, I wasn’t just in the middle of the North Atlantic for nothing, I was actually trying to snorkel with dolphins. I say trying because I was failing miserably. My snorkel filled with so much water, I was afraid of drinking the ocean empty. We got lucky though. We found a pod of common dolphins that seemed kind of curious about us.

Common dolphin checking me out
Common dolphin checking me out

But we noticed that the pod of common dolphins was quick paced and didn’t like to hang out around the boat. Every now and then one single dolphin would come and see what was going on, but in split seconds that same dolphin would be gone without a trace. So eventually we climbed back into the boat and headed back towards land.

On the boat there was a skipper, a helper and three of us volunteers. All five of us were exhausted and thrilled and just genuinely happy about our encounter with the dolphins. We three volunteers sat all in our wetsuits hoping the sun would dry us up quickly and incredibly happy to be returning back to land.

As I laid back comfortably on the zodiac and felt the sea air blow through my damp hair, our skipper for the day, Tiago, and the most awesomest marine biologist I have ever met (other than Joana! again, check out: diveazores!), yelled with the utter most excitement: LOOK, IN FRONT OF YOU! And there it was. The moment that changed everything. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

There it was, a breach of one single false killer whale, catapulting himself (or herself, hard to tell when you are at a distance) out of the water and splashing onto the surface. Within a split second Tiago turned around the zodiac and went the opposite direction of the marina and we all were a bit confused. The whale was in the opposite direction! What was he doing? Turn around, I want to see them, I was quietly screaming to him in my head. But he knew what he was doing!

Within a few minutes we found ourselves in the middle of a battlefield of enormous proportions. We could almost feel the tension rising, as the grey torpedoes were traveling in unison. They reached our boat in no time and as we were watching them, we knew they were watching us. The false killer whale surrounded us, first we thought it was only one pod of maybe 20 individuals but turned out we were in the midst of a 200+ false killer whale superpod fast track.

Dark shapes came from everywhere
Dark shapes came from everywhere

Every now and then we could see dark shapes directly underneath the boat and let me tell you, when you are in the middle of a superpod you know you are at their mercy! But Tiago was respectful. He kept his distance and would not interfere with the animals, he would let them be and yet still gave us a chance to witness the coolest thing ever:

Close encounter with false killer whales
Close encounter with false killer whales

Every now and then the ocean would all of a sudden quiet down. It seemed as if nothing had happened and the only thing we could hear were our own breaths of excitement. It seemed as the false killer whales agree to just dive and disappear into the depths of the ocean, leaving us hanging dry, longing for their company, but then they would resurface:

False Killer whales resurfacing
False Killer whales resurfacing

It was simply spectacular! Especially whenever we heard their breathing sometimes more than 10 false killer whales coming up for a breather at a time. But don’t be fooled and think that they hung out with us, oh no! They were on a traveling mission and they traveled fast! We could barely keep up with them! They were incredibly coordinated and although curious about what we were, they did not get distracted by us.

Close encounter with false killer whale
Close encounter with false killer whale

This is one of the last shots I could get of one of these significant animals before they sped up even more and left us feeling incredibly privileged to have witnessed these few brief moments with them. A surfacing false killer whale.

False Killer whale dorsal fin
False Killer whale dorsal fin

I cannot say how often I watched the videos over and over again, they might not be the best quality but every time I see them I feel like I am back on the boat, right next to the superpod! Truly one of the most amazing experiences!

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