My day started pretty typically, crossing the strait of Georgia, discussing the types of Killer Whales and cetaceans found in the Salish Sea. Of course it was one of the days when I didn’t have my camera with me and I will always be kicking myself for that.
Boom! Out of nowhere (the best way to see whales!) huge black fins appeared just as we were passing through the Gulf Islands. So amazing! We spent some time just watching them and we were able to figure out by group size that these were Biggs Killer Whales. They were moving pretty quickly but at the beginning of our encounter they were not did not seem to be hunting. They were moving at a decent pace but probably just travelling not hunting. They slowly started to pick up speed, we didn’t notice anything else around in the water, they didn’t change behaviour too much. They were still just travelling and then everything changed.
They disappeared from the surface. It felt like forever but was probably only a few minutes. Tthen there was so much white water and fins and flippers and splashes. We couldn’t tell what we going on as we were abiding by the whale watch guidelines and then all of a sudden everything was still again. I knew they had caught something or had been trying to catch something. And then while everyone was holding their breath we saw the porpoise.
It’s not wrong to be excited to watch a hunt, these animals are incredible hunters. Personally, hunt days were some of my favourite days on the water and this was my first (and so far only) encounter with a porpoise hunt. What an amazing predatory experience to be part of. SO COOL.
The porpoise is trying to “porpoise” away from the pod (there were probably about 4 animals in this unknown family of Biggs). We could tell that it Harbour Porpoise. This was so different than a seal or sea lion hunt that I had previously seen from Biggs. Unless that is a training hunt it’s usually done pretty quickly and efficiently. They may hit them with their rostrum to stun them or roll over them to drown them. This was not the case with this porpoise hunt. So much slapping and splashing (both pec and tail slaps) and leaps on everybody’s part. I don’t know how long it went on for but everyone on the boat was rapt in attention. After lots of splashes and leaps and noise. (the noise you could hear on the surface was so loud!) finally it got still and everyone was underwater.
Then, I will never forget this image. Two killer whales rose spy hopping up with half a porpoise in each of their mouths! They had obviously grabbed it together underwater, ripped it in half and one had a head and one had a tail in their mouths when they surfaced. And it was amazing. From a predatory aspect it might have been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. I don’t even remember what happened after that. I’m sure they went back underwater and shared their meal with their pod and there may have been some celebratory leaps after that but I have no idea. That is a vision that will stick in my mind for the rest of my life. Wow. Nature is powerful.
This encounter was first told in episode seven of the Whale Tales Podcast. Listen here.