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  • Writer's pictureJohn J King II

Report from Patagonia: The Orca Hunters of Punta Norte

The times are uncertain and troubling at the moment. People are really suffering as a result of covid - 19 and it appears that the worst may yet be in front of us. I have been away and off the grid for almost two months and am currently undergoing a 14 day cautionary quarantine near my home on Cape Cod hoping no virus symptoms develop after international travel.

Predawn sky at Punta Norte on Peninsula Valdez

Rewind the clock back seven weeks. I had a decision to make. Being risk tolerant, I looked at the data on the then early days of the entry of the virus to the USA and made a decision to travel to southern Argentina which at the time was virus free. This was to be my fourth expedition to the region joining a small eclectic group of conservation minded photographers and naturalists from around the world to witness one of the earth’s most unique wildlife spectacles. Our goal was to observe the magnificent apex predators that hunt in the waters off of Peninsula Valdez each March – the handful of orca hunters of Punta Norte. At the time I had no idea that my journey into the wild south would lead to a protracted lockdown confining me into one of the wildest parts of Patagonia for more than 5 weeks due to a world pandemic around covid-19.. Perhaps the decision to travel was ill advised as the journey home was heroic and and a tale in itself. More on that later.

Here is a first cut at images of my time there this year. In 36 days we had 13 days observing orca in the area. We also had the opportunity to witness the other creatures which live on the arid Peninsula Valdez. .

A young female orca ambushes a naive 6 week old sea lion pup shortly after dawn

South American sea lions

Southern Giant Petrel picking the bones

Milky way at Estancia la Ernestina

Burrowing owl

Peregrine falcon hunting

Variable hawk on the hunt

Hairy armadillo feeds on a dead penguin

Magellanic grey fox feeds on penguin

A pair of European hares

Magellanic oystercatchers

Variable hawk in flight

Supermoon rises at the Estancia, a sheep ranch on the Peninsula Valdez.

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