Whale watchers in Australia witnessed a rare occurrence: two pods of orcas attacked a young, healthy humpback whale. The whale, a 2- to 3-year-old male, reportedly survived the attack despite losing his dorsal fin, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Gemma Sharp, co-owner of Whale Watcher Australia and a witness to the attack on February 17, stated to the newspaper, “We knew we were witnessing something significant.” “The orca were in full attack mode, while the humpback desperately attempted to defend itself.”
Sharp and a boatload of whale watchers were in Bremer Bay, Western Australia when they spotted approximately 15 orcas surfacing. They quickly realized that the predators had surrounded a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). As humans observed, the orcas repeatedly attempted to seize the humpback’s dorsal fin to flip it over and drown it.
Sharp stated that the flip-and-drown strategy typically works on whale calves and yearlings, but the young male was too strong and large for the orcas to move him. The whale swam directly toward the boat and hid beneath it for nearly an hour.
As the orcas circled the humpback, hoping for a second chance, the commotion attracted 50 pilot whales and a group of bull sharks. One of the orca pods eventually left.
Another pod of six orcas waited for approximately 300 meters from the boat until the humpback whale decided to flee. The largest orca, a male weighing 19,800 pounds (8,980 kilograms) and nicknamed El Notcho by whale watchers in the region, attempted to ram the humpback and break its jaw. According to Sharp, the humpback was unaffected by the attack.
At that point, the orcas gave up. The humpback whale quickly approached the coast.
“They did take his [dorsal] fin, but his tail flukes and pectoral fins were all fine, which is important. If they exhale blood … that’s always a real concern but there was none of that,” Sharp said.
She stated that the whale-watching crew was the first to document an attack of this nature in Bermer Bay on video.