Blue Whale escapes Orca attack during a phenomenal day as we were witness to the hunt with Pilot Whales and an enormous pod of bachelor Sperm Whales surrounding the extraordinary event.
Our morning began like any other as we departed the Bremer Bay Boat Harbour with light winds and a calm sea forecast for the duration of the day ahead, perfect conditions for exploring. Approaching the sightings grounds we could see ahead of us a muffled blow and as we approached the lone male Sperm Whale there was an inkling he may not be the only one in the area. Oxygen saturation complete and ready for the next foraging dive he lifted his fluke gracefully before sinking into the depths below.
A perfect start to our morning and it was only a short time later that the distinctive dorsal fins and blows of Pilot Whales could be observed on the move.
Approaching the family pod we smiled to see tiny newborns travelling alongside their mums happily as the Pilots were relaxed and enjoying their morning stroll.
It was easy to get distracted today as while we were with the Pilot Whales further muffled blows began to appear on our starboard side as multiple male Sperm Whales began to surface. Wishing the Pilots well we moved out towards the Sperm Whales and had over a dozen individuals returning to the surface in preparation for their next feeding dive.
Tail dives all round as each individual took their turn to return to the depths below in search of squid. It was time to continue on with our search for the Orca and soon the call went out from Mum that tall blows and slinky dorsal fins were on the horizon and moving fast, the Orca were in town.
Joining with Giovanni and family we travelled with the Orca for over an hour as they settled into a nice travelling rhythm and the foraging FLOT line expanded. The only distraction to their steady swim was another pod of Pilot Whales moving past just ahead with the Orca relaxed as they slowed until the Pilots had moved past. Giovanni surfaced just off our port bow and as we looked over his dorsal fin a large tuff of white water formed only two hundred meters away.
Suddenly there were well over forty smaller tuffs of white water heading our way and it was clear that we had surging Pilot Whales moving towards us at pace and chasing after something large. Giovanni was now stationary and facing towards the wall of white water as we watched and waited with him, what happened next was a moment we will never forget. A mountain of grey, black and white exploded above the surface as the unmistakable body of a Blue Whale was hurtling towards us at over 30kph with Orca porpoising alongside him.
The hunt was on and as they accelerated we could see that Giovanni now knew exactly what was happening as the first frantic moments of the initial contact with the Blue Whale had thrown the Orca.
It didn’t help that over forty Pilot Whales were surging behind the Orca and causing a huge commotion as all raced to get closer to the Blue Whale. The Pilot Whales tend to show a lot of interest to high energy chases and seem to enjoy the excitement of the adrenaline rush. It only took a few minutes for the Blue Whale to pull away from the initial Orca who had approached him but now it was Giovanni’s time to shine as he took off after the Blue and soon found himself side by side with a giant.
The two were pectoral to pectoral and matching each others speed as Giovanni waited patiently for backup to arrive and it came with an almighty crash.
Fanscar exploded across our bow and rammed the Blue Whale hard as it was now her turn to take on the head of the hunt. She was phenomenal as every time the Blue would surface she could be seen porpoising completely airborne alongside displaying incredible power and agility.
The family was working hard to keep up with the galloping Blue Whale and we knew that if he could keep up the pace he would be able to pull away from the Orca eventually.
It was just the one family pod involved in the hunt and not enough Orca power to successfully control one of the worlds largest creatures. The family continued to gather momentum as more and more pod members arrived on scene and the Blue Whale had an enormous challenge ahead of him.
Attempting to bite and cause distress to the Blue each Orca involved took turns to try and slow him down. During these hunts every impact has us wincing as the potential for both Orca and Blue Whale to be severely wounded is extremely high as thousands of kilograms are crashing together at high speeds. It was similar to chasing down a freight train for the Orca as the Blue Whale was swimming for his life towards shallow waters.
Minute by minute the Blue increased distance from the the Orca as we could see the intelligent minds of the Orca deciding that they didn’t have the number of Orca needed to complete this hunt safely. The Blue Whale continued on as the Orca disappeared from view and our hearts began to beat at a more normal rhythm, our precious Blue Whale escaped an Orca attack!
It was now time to wish him well as he moved out towards the coastline and we checked back for the Orca who had regrouped and were moving back out to deeper water. A final farewell from the Sperm Whales back up in The Patch and cheeky Sea Lions on Glasse Island completed a truely remarkable day.
To witness the hunt between these two remarkable species is an incredibly rare opportunity which has been witnessed by very few people on the planet. Today our resilient Blue Whale made an incredible escape through clear thinking and determination, nothing was going to stop him from outrunning the Orca. The family were unfortunate to not have further Orca families in the vicinity to assist with the hunt but tried their best, a good warmup for the baleen whale hunting season ahead. Our hope is that this young Blue Whale will always remember this encounter and learn an important lesson to not travel through the Orca hunting grounds in the future.
-Whale Watch Western Australia
This post was adapted from a blog, read the original here.