09-27-2012 Orcas hunting porpoise and Humpbacks breaching at Moss

Orca with Harbor Porpoise in mouth alongside Sanctuary (Photo D. DeJong)

Orca captures Harbor Porpoise outside Moss Landing D.De Jong 9/27/12Oh my, what a day on the bay. Such thrilling sightings and all within one mile of our Moss Landing Harbor mouth! The day started with finding humpbacks immediately upon going out of the harbor. Within minutes these whales were breaching repeatedly. WOW! After another half hour of watching the whales surface, breath and dive, I opened my mouth to say that “repeated breaching is a tough act to follow” when they decided to pop up right in front of our boat, giving excellent views of their backs and tails. They also trumpeted repeatedly right after I described their vocalizations. Sometimes I think they listen to me, understand and respond humorously!

We had to make a sudden departure from our very nice humpbacks when we got the call “orcas at the MLA buoy”. We got real nice views of a group of three female orcas cruising for a meal and were feeling quite good about the day, when they just seemed to disappear. After about ten minutes, they were spotted even closer into shore and were joined by four more females and calves. This now tight-knit pod of orcas was cruising in tighter circles and it seemed an attack seemed imminent. I was correct! Suddenly surging and splashing occurred and the hunt was on.

I was a bit choked up to see a young harbor porpoise trying its best to get away. I knew it was futile. But I did not anticipate that the largest orca would do a breach and land on the poor little porpoise just a few feet from our boat. Nor that the whole gang of orcas would rush in within five feet of our stern and chomp down the pitiful porpoise in such close proximity. It was an unbelievable rush to behold with a mixture of dread (for the porpoise) and awe (for the awesome power of these whales). The orcas put on a show of nature that none of us will ever forget. This photo by Desiree De Jong shows one of the whales with the porpoise in its mouth and the little guys flukes and dorsal fin showing. I know this is nature and I am a huge killer whale fan, but I must admit I have a very soft spot in my heart for the diminutive harbor porpoise.

We have lots of room on the boat tomorrow. If you want likely orca action, get on the boat!

About Michael Sack

Boat Captain, Monterey Bay marine life naturalist and guide. Photographer and Videographer.
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