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March 2024    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 50, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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MV Valentina, Sea of Cortez

sea lion games and orca hunts

from the March, 2024 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver,

While divers travel to the Galapagos, Australia, or Indonesia in search of diving adventure, in Mexico's Sea of Cortez anything can happen.

MV. ValentinaAs I and a gang of other divers were off-gassing between dives on the MV Valentina in late October, I watched a large school of small dolphins a few hundred yards away. One of my sharp-eyed dive buddies yelled, "Whale!" Soon, an orca appeared, and at least a hundred dolphins leaped from the water. I was breathless.

Suddenly, several orca dorsal fins broke the surface. It was an orchestrated orca hunting party. We scrambled into the two 25-foot RIBs with cameras ready and motored slowly on the calm sea to where the action had been. Again, several orca dorsal fins broke the surface as the orcas seemed to be going in circles. Everywhere, dolphins jumped clear of the water and scattered, with the breaching orcas in pursuit. One 20-foot orca even brushed the side of an RIB. Later, one diver showed a video of his shadow across the animal's back while it spouted and sprayed everyone in the RIB, creating a rainbow. The money shots came from two people holding GoPros on selfie sticks under our RIB. One recorded an orca with a dolphin in its mouth 50 feet below.

While we followed the orcas, one woman diver asked, "Can we stop the boat so I can swim with an orca"? For a few seconds, we had absolute silence. One diver said they had been disabling sailboats in the Mediterranean by breaking off their rudders. I said there is no documented evidence of an orca killing a human . . . or maybe there are no survivors to tell their story. Another said they're apex predators, and she would be putting herself at their mercy or whim. She did get into the water as she tried "to hear the whales." She didn't stay long. It was an hour before we awe-struck observers returned to the Valentina.

I had arrived at the Valentina in La Paz a few days earlier after a 2.5-hour shuttle ride from the Cabo San Lucas airport. I left my gear on board and strolled to the Casa del Mar restaurant on the park-like Malecon boulevard to meet up with other divers, many of whom I had dived with previously. The boulevard was closed to vehicles to host a 10 km race for hundreds of runners while families with children sauntered along the sidewalk. After too many cervezas and a few too many dive stories over several hours, I said good night and ambled back to the ship....

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