Surfers get a whale of a tale after close orca encounter
CTV British Columbia
Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:28PM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:18PM PST
A group of B.C. surfers beat a hasty retreat to dry land last Friday after discovering there was more in the water than just great waves.
The group found themselves just meters away from a pod of orcas, commonly known as killer whales, off the beach at Pacific Rim National Park, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Adam Chilton, who captured the amazing video at a popular surf beach near Tofino, said they first spotted the whales a few hundred feet offshore, but didn’t expect the large mammals to come much closer to the beach.
“They came in closer to shore. I guess there was a pack of sea lions, and they started hunting these sea lions,” he told CTV News in a Skype interview.
It was then that two surfers got out of the water really quickly.
Chilton said the surfers felt more in awe than in danger, and everyone had a good laugh about it once they were on dry land.
“It was just sort of a cool scene,” he said.
Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, a senior marine mammal researcher with the Vancouver Aquarium, said it’s not unusual for transient orca whales to seek out prey like seals or sea lions close to shorelines.
But while the large mammals are good at getting into the shallow water, it poses a risk, and occasionally a member of the pod will beach themselves on the shore. Sea lions use this to their advantage.
“Prey will play a game to get the big whales closer to shore –and keep themselves safe,” he said.
The surfers weren’t at a great risk from a whale attack, he added.
“These whales are extremely discriminating what they eat. They know exactly what’s food and what isn’t and for some reason we’re lucky humans aren’t food.”
Barrett-Lennard said the bigger danger is getting in the middle of a whale and its dinner. A sea lion could strike a surfboard or get behind a surfer in a panic to get away from the predator.
“I would advise surfers to get out of the water,” he said.