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Natural Selections
By Kate Armstrong, The Weekend Australian

It’s as though someone has shrieked “Fire!” One minute, the 58 passengers aboard SS Legacy are enjoying their three-course lunch; the next, everyone, aged 11 to 83 years, is squeezing out the exit and onto the deck, grabbing for binoculars and exclaiming elatedly.

Why the exodus? Pre-empting the crew’s calm intercom announcement of wildlife, an enthusiastic passenger has cried “Orca!” Like spotting Africa’s Big Five, an orca sighting in Alaska is up there with humpback whales, puffins and glacial calving.

Several orcas are swimming close to the ship, their shiny, streamlined bodies rising and falling gracefully as they surface and retreat. In the background, snow-capped peaks flank the fjord, the 145km Lynn Canal.