The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) witnessed a rare event unfold as a large group of Bigg’s (transient) orcas and a pair of humpback whales harassed each other during a dramatic hours-long encounter in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Whale watchers were making their way toward the U.S.-Canadian border in the Strait of Juan de Fuca when the captain spotted the group of whales. At first, whale watchers observed what they thought was a pod of roughly 15 Bigg’s orcas swimming and "being unusually active at the surface." Before long, it became apparent that two humpback whales were in their midst.
According to observers who came and went throughout the day, the intense encounter that unfolded included an astonishing three hours of breaching, tail-slapping and loud vocalizations.
Eventually, the whale watchers lost sight of the epic encounter when a thick cloud of fog rolled in, so the result of the contest remains a mystery.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it because it was absolutely unbelievable,” says Mollie Naccarato, captain and naturalist for Sooke Coastal Explorations on south Vancouver Island. “At first, the orcas seemed to be chasing the humpbacks, but then when it seemed there was space between them, the humpbacks would go back toward the orcas.”