Epic Encounter for OSO Students


Yesterday was truly a special day for O'Neill Sea Odyssey and our Ocean Stewards. Just a few miles outside the Santa Cruz Harbor, the OSO crew, along with Mr. Halbig's Mountain School 5th/6th grade class, witnessed Monterey Bay's magnificence. Fortunately for all of us, professional photographer, Nikki Brooks, was chaperoning her daughter's class and captured these stunning images. In addition, she and her daughter, Waverley, have provided their unique perspectives of the encounter.


Dear Orcas of the Monterey Bay,

Today my class and others on the boat saw you for the first time during the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program. As we approached you, we all grew excited and it was really loud. After the crew told us to quiet down, we were silent and all we could hear was you exhaling and talking to each other. Maybe you were happy to see us too? At one point you were so close that I felt like I could almost touch you.

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I was super surprised that your dorsal fin was much bigger than I expected. We saw your calf and its small dorsal fin and the adult male in your pod with the huge dorsal fin. I read that you can weigh up to 10 tons and can grow up to 30 feet long! I also learned that you can live up to 50 to 100 years and you have the largest dorsal fin of all the cetaceans (dolphins and whales). You are also the world’s most powerful and strong predator.

I wonder how marine biologists track your age. There are many questions about the ocean to be answered and that is just one of them.

Seeing orcas for the first time was an awesome experience. My classmates and I are thankful that we got to have this rare experience on the O’Neill catamaran.


Waverley Brooks

Sharing the wonders of nature with my daughter’s class was extra rewarding today as we saw a pod of transient orcas in the Monterey Bay. Thanks to the favorable weather conditions, close proximity of the orcas and whales, and flexibility of the crew and the Mountain School teacher, Mr. Halbig, we were able to make a unique expedition to view the orcas. I have been an instructor with O’Neill Sea Odyssey for more than 15 years and I grew up in Santa Cruz, and this was the first time I have seen orcas in the Monterey Bay. As I stood on the cabin top and took these photos, I looked below at the young ocean stewards on the boat. A sense of power, pleasure and peace was shared as we crossed paths with these magnificent creatures.

Thank you for your continued support of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey program!

Nikki Brooks

Photo courtesy of Jane Mayer

Photo courtesy of Jane Mayer