Orcas: Killer Beauties

Orca Attack!


Welcome to the Orca Attack! This article, extracted from April's 1979 National Geographic Magazine, "Killer Whale Attack !" written by Cliff Tarpy, describes how transitory Killer Whale pods cooperates to hunt on larger preys like the Blue Whale. I saw it, and asked to the National Geographic Society for their authorization to publish it on my site, because I believe it's too good to be forgotten. I hope you like it.

The morning broke clear and calm as those aboard the research vessel of Sea World begins another day of tagging the swordfish for a migration study. The delicate breeze and the strong light of sun set the seas off the tip Baja California, sparkling with lazy undulations as they touches boat. There was no clue of the crude violence of which soon those in the boat would be witnesses.

Around 1:00 P.M. one of the crew members, Milton C. Shedd, proprietor of the boat and president of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, San Diego; noted a zone of water in which the water whipped white by frenzied thrashing. Suspecting the presence Orcas, Shedd alerted to an airplane that was aiding in the watch of the swordfish. After the pilot confirmed the suspicion of Shedd, the boat went to the area and found something rare seen and apparently never before photographed.

A group of supreme efficient predators was attacking one of the most massive creatures than never has lived. Around thirty Orcas of a transitory group was attacking a young sixty foot blue whale. The implacable group stripped away flesh and blubber, piece by piece, while the leviathan tried to flee, dragging a river of blood behind him. Both, film and cameras were at the hand to register the amazing spectacle.

Some one could think that the Orcas, tame and playful in captivity, are unjustly named. But in their habitat, the Orca kills.

How does a Transitory Pod attacks?

The transitory groups consist of several extremely efficient predators, which exhibit different divisions of group work; described as next.

The dorsal fin of the immense Blue Whale had been chewed of as its tail flukes, making swimming to the Blue Whale almost impossible. The dominant males approached above to take chunks of flesh.

The attack continued until early afternoon ours. The Sea World vessel, covering near 20 miles, followed this siege close for five hours. But the total duration of this type of attacks is not known, and this spectacle in special already was in progress when it was discovered.


When the Blue Whale goes to the surface, it exposes its back, bloodied white blubber; showed where its dorsal fin had been. (Above Left). The camera also had caught the moment at which one of the attackers was peeling of one long strip of flesh, as it glided toward the prey's nose (Above to the Right). That same wound became more notable when the Blue Whale emerged (Down to the right).


Around 6:00 p.m. the attack stopped suddenly and mysteriously. First the Orcas behind the Blue Whale reduced the speed, then those that were at the front, stopped and later all swam away. Why ? The Director of Hubbs-Sea World William E. Evans says that perhaps the Orcas wanted to take a break to allow the Blue Whale weaken further, before beginning a new attack. Or they could have decided to attack some prey that required less energy.

Or perhaps they had eaten to their fill. Perhaps more on this incident may be known, when Sea World, completes the editing and studies of this tape. Mortally wounded of a bleeding cavity in a side of its body, which had been estimated at more than six feet square. (Above in the Center). The Blue Whale (the most powerful creature in the ocean, but not with greater killer force) swam away slowly and painfully.

Condensed from: Killer Whale Attack! By Cliff Tarpy.
Photo Credit: Robert Vile and Robert French 1978 Sea World, Inc.
Copyright National Geographic Magazine, April 1979.


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