Mid-morning break at Palmer Station, in the galley, somebody on the All Call said “Whales.” Then someone said “Minkes” but as the whales hurtled closer, everyone said “Orcas!” People rose and exclaimed. We could see tall fins of orcas racing toward us. They swam into Hero Inlet. Palmer overlooks Hero Inlet, and the deck on the galley provided a decent ringside seat. Except the boathouse was partly in the way, so many of us ran down to the reinforced bank to one side of the boathouse. I took the video below. Some of these events are on the video; some aren't. I hope you can ignore the voices & laughter – there were a lot of us down there.
The orcas began spyhopping all around a big flat cake of ice with a crabeater seal sleeping on it. The seal woke up and realized it was being inspected by huge murderous monsters. It looked around for a way to leave. Around 0:40 it almost seems to have a short fit of some kind.
Then some of the orcas found another seal sleeping at the end of the inlet, and went and spyhopped to get a view of that one and its possible vulnerability. After a moment the first seal, taking advantage of the switch in the orcas' focus, dove into the water.
The small birds fluttering over the water from time to time are Wilson's Storm-Petrels. They pick tiny food items off the water's surface. Soon, giving up on both seals, the orcas sped away, first passing within yards of thrilled people standing on the bank.
We agreed that some of us were on Team Seal, hoping for its escape, and some of us were on Team Orca, hoping for the hunting party to succeed. And many of us had divided loyalties. We all hoped the orcas would add Hero Inlet to their rounds so we could see them again. A little while after the orcas left, a seal suddenly leapt out of the water onto the ice. It looked like the same one, and we wanted to suggest to it that sleeping on land might be safer than sleeping on ice in this part of the world. But seals don't listen.