Boaters left with ‘jaws gaping’ as two ‘titans of the ocean’ battle, rare video shows


Tourists on a boat in Australia were left stunned as they watched a pod of orcas chase and attack a group of sperm whales. A rare video shows the “titans of the ocean” battling.

Naturaliste Charters took a boat of tourists to Bremer Canyon for a whale watching expedition on March 19, the company wrote in a Facebook post. The boat quickly arrived at a “hotspot” to find a pod of orcas foraging.

Then, “with a large splash … everything changed,” the company said. The pod of orcas “began to pick up speed” and chase something.

The pod chased its target for just over 7 miles, herding the target into shallower water, Naturaliste Charters wrote in an Instagram post.

When the hidden target finally surfaced, “what we saw left our jaws gaping,” the company said. They saw “the unmistakable arched back and tail of a sperm whale.” Four more sperm whales eventually surfaced.

Sperm whales are massive deep-sea predators with a gray body, pointed teeth and a block-like head.

Naturaliste Charters shared a video of the rare encounter on Facebook on March 26. In the video, the gray sperm whales are seen huddled together as orcas circle around them.

“The group of sperm whales appeared distressed and exhausted,” the company said, but they quickly began splashing their tails to fend off the orcas. Video footage shows the churning waters.

Suddenly, the whale watchers saw a “large dark bubble” of something reddish brown erupt from around the sperm whales, and an orca surfaced with a chunk of meat in its mouth. The video shows this murky bubble and the orca with its hard-won meat.

Soon after, the orcas called off their attack and moved away. “The mood onboard became solemn as we processed what may have just unfolded in front of our eyes,” the company said. “Had the orca really just taken down a sperm whale?”

After the trip, the company looked closer at the photographs and videos of the fight. A different picture emerged.

“What was originally thought to have been a bubble of blood exploding on the surface has since been confirmed as feces,” the company said. “Sperm whales are known to defecate when threatened … The cloud of diarrhea created when the whale waves its tail through its poo appears to deter predators and in this case, seemed to work!”

The meat the orcas took was likely squid, the company said, either “stolen from the sperm whales’ jaws or regurgitated (by the sperm whales) in a defensive effort to relinquish a potential attack on themselves.”

These two “titans of the ocean” are rarely seen battling, Naturaliste Charters said. For a long time, people assumed sperm whales and orcas were too evenly matched for the two predators to attack each other.

The whale watching company said the intense encounter was “an immense privilege and a reminder of just how wild these animals and this place are.”

Bremer Canyon is off the southwestern coast of Australia.

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