NGOS recently caught up with some Gulf of Alaska transients:
“This is our first sunny day and there is very little wind out in Hinchinbrook Entrance. Unfortunately no whales as well.
We hear nothing on the hydrophone, but on crossing Hinchinbrook I spot some fins out of the corner of my eye. Don’t see them again for 10 minutes.
They are silent, hunting Gulf of Alaska transient killer whales (also known as Bigg’s killer whales). The four whales of the AT73 matriline and the male AT72(male) who at first is way off on the periphery. They are headed out past Schooner rock are stalking their marine mammal prey with the male, AT72, traveling along a half mile away.
Suddenly there are breaches and so much spray we can hardly see whats happening. A porpoise rockets into the air with a breaching whale behind. There is a porpoise in the mouth of one whale and then a whale comes up on its back with a thrashing porpoise under its chin.
Blood is in the spray and there are bite marks across tail stock of porpoise. This porpoise seems to have a broken back, but a second injured porpoise swims away. They let the 2 year old juvenile whale go after it and ram it before the adults move in and mercifully end its travails.
Gulls circle over and Dan gets a bit of skin left floating that can be used for DNA analysis. Just as the resident type killer whales are fearsome salmon predators, these Bigg’s killer whales are adept predators of marine mammals. Although we have seen predation like this many times, it never fails to leave us awestruck and a little unsettled.”