Orcas in a different kind of way

by firmm Team

Text: Melanie Fraundorfer, photos: firmm

As soon as we see the fast, torpedo-shaped bodies of the Orcas, we know immediately that they are good hunters. The streamlined, graceful animals hunt in the Strait of Gibraltar for tuna und exactly thereby we can observe them, most of the time when they get the weakened, big tuna fish hanging on the hook of the fishermen.

When we searched for whales and dolphins on July 21st we were really surprised to find them more in the middle of the Strait of Gibraltar than we see them normally. The water was smooth as glass and we could already make them out from the distance – and they were not alone. The good hunters demonstrated a different side: they swam peacefully next to two fin whales. The Orca-calf was very curious and inspected the gentle giants with much interest. His mother, another female and a male accompanied the calf. The sea was very calm, the animals were relaxed and all of us were absolutely delighted.

The male surfaces right next to us From the last seaon it is well known to us 

While exploring, the Orca family approached our boat from behind and accompanied us for a while. Suddenly the giant Fin whales also appeared next to us. “Pfuuuhhhh” – we could hear and also see the loud blow of the Fin whales. They were breathing in and out three times, formed a long back and dived down for a few minutes. After a while we let them move on peacefully, but in my memory the image of the peaceful Fin whales and the interested Orcas has anchored. What an experience!

Fully grown giant on his way towards the Atlantic with Gibraltar in the backround 

Comment from Jörn
We spotted the fin whales and the orcas nearly at the same time, at this time they were one mile apart from each other. Now it was time for me to decide, the guests on board preferred to see the orcas, but the fin whales moved towards the Atlantic. Although they swam leisurely, it was foreseeable that they would be out of reach in no amount of time. So I went for the fin whales and the decision proofed to be right, because it came, as described above, to an encounter of both species.

Male and female The calf 

Fully grown fin whales have no natural enemies, for that reason they don’t need to fear the orcas. In addition to that no attacks of the local orcas on other whales are known, they belong to the fish-hunting culture. So the fin whales changed neither their course nor their moderate swimming behaviour. Nevertheless I was really anxious, when I saw the orcas swimming towards the fin whales. The reason might have been the curiosity of the orca-calf. Among whale species it happens very often that they scrutinize each other. Most of the time this happens in a peaceful way. But there are also documented attacks of Bottlenose Dolphins on Harbour Porpoises (Scotland), of the local Pilot Whales on Orcas and of course of Orcas in other regions of the world on Marine Mammals (even dolphins in South Africa), but they belong to the mammal-hunting culture.

Unfortunately it was not possible to ban both species at the same time on one photo, as both of them dive for long periods. For all of us who have seen it, it remains an exceptional and unique experience.

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