Photo: Nuttee's Photography

killer whales

Not strictly surf related, but it's interesting to know what our fellow water-users are getting up to...

Shark cage divers recently witnessed an extraordinary spectacle off the coast of South Australia, when a pod of orca whales ganged up on a great white shark. The group of tourists were out at sea near the Neptune Islands, a popular destination for great white shark tourism located 50 km or so from Port Lincoln. The pod of six killer whales, which included two calves, targeted the great white in a coordinated attack, repeatedly ushering the shark to the surface then launching themselves out of the water and slamming down on top of it.

Adventure Bay Charters operator Matt Waller said he'd never seen anything like it during his six years with the company. "You're looking at the two apex predators of the marine world -- it's like the title fight of all title fights," he said. A six-against-one title fight may hardly seem fair, but then Mother Nature doesn't play by no Marquess of Queensbury Rules.

“For it to happen 20 metres from the boat in such a confronting, full-on manner was certainly something that will never be seen again in our lifetime," Waller told The New Daily.

The boat's skipper Kym Sheppard, speaking to the Daily Telegraph, said the whales were so close that the divers under the water could hear their distinctive clicking sounds. “We use music to attract the sharks, and some people actually thought we were playing whale sounds as a joke," he said. “[The whales] then they worked their way to the back of the boat, circling the shark and pushing it down under the water. They did that a couple of times, then on the third time everything went quiet and it was all over. It was absolutely epic."

Orca or killer whales are in fact members of the dolphin family, and can weigh up to six tonnes. Describing the whales' method of attack, this time to ABC, Waller said: "These whales were working together, launching themselves out of the water and slamming down on top of the great white shark. I can only imagine if that's what we were seeing on the surface, that under the surface you had other whales which were working to try and keep this shark up. It never actually went down it stayed on the surface and was trying to get away.

“After the final kill everything went quiet and the whales dropped down and an oil slick appeared and started to spread out," he continued. “Next thing you saw was birds coming in to pick up the spoils. Killer whales don’t eat the whole shark, just the liver which is high in oil." The attack provoked a range of responses from the tourists, according to Waller: "It was really weird, people were crying, people were laughing, people were swearing, they were at the height of emotion."

The footage below is of a pod of orcas attacking a tiger shark off the coast of Costa Rica. You might also be interested in the National Geographic documentary Killer Whale Vs Great White Shark, featuring the only known footage of orcas attacking a great white.