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Whale Showdown: Humpbacks and Orcas in a Rare Clash of Titans
October 9, 2023

Whale Showdown: Humpbacks and Orcas in a Rare Clash of Titans

Prince of Whales

All images courtesy of Tobin Sparling

Unexpected encounters between different species of whales are like witnessing a clash of titans. On September 24th we watched an incredible encounter, in which humpbacks and killer whales were chasing each other, tail lobbing and vocalizing. One of our naturalists, Tobin Sparling, shared his awe-inspiring experience: “That was the first time I’ve actually seen them interact. It was amazing”. We were able to count a total of seven orcas and at least three humpbacks. The humpback whales exhibited peculiar behavior as they engaged in subtle splashes beneath the surface, accompanied by a distinct trumpeting noise, which is often interpreted as signal of stress or communication among these gentle giants.

Humpbacks and orcas chased each other, and an incredible number of whales converged in close proximity. In every direction we turned, there were whales splashing and orcas leaping in the air. As the whales were getting closer, we shut off the engine, allowing the spectacle to continue without disturbance. The chase between the two whale species persisted for a remarkable hour.

Bigg’s killer whales, natural predators of humpback whales, typically steer clear of them. However, on rare occasions when they find themselves in the same vicinity. The humpbacks might have been defending their territory during this extraordinary encounter. In an unexpected twist, it appeared that the humpbacks were pursuing the killer whales, attempting to assert their dominance and drive them out of the area.

Remarkably, during this encounter, it appeared that no young calves were in harm’s way, and the two groups eventually parted ways, leaving us with an indelible memory of a remarkable marine showdown.

We are always amazed and fascinated with these cetaceans, and this gives us another reason to remember the importance of preserving these magnificent creatures and their habitats. Such encounters remind us of the awe-inspiring beauty and complexity of our oceans, urging us to protect them for generations to come.

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