In the following videograbs, a pod of Killer Whales Orcinus orca can be seen attacking a Gray Whale Eschrichtius robustus mother and calf as they migrate northwards through Monterey Bay.  Approximately 15 Killer Whales were involved in the attack, including a very large male.  The action took place barely half a mile off Moss Landing, along the south rim of the submarine Monterey Canyon.  The attack had been in progress for over an hour when our boat arrived and several research craft from Monterey Bay Whale Watch were already on the scene.  On their northward migration, female Gray Whales and calves keep to shallow waters along the coast, trying to avoid Killer Whales that prefer deeper water. However, the deep water of Monterey Canyon must still be negotiated in the vicinity of Moss Landing and here they are vulnerable to attack.  The Gray Whale calf was the main object of the attack, the Orcas attempting to separate it from the mother and drown it by preventing it from surfacing for air.  The female Gray Whale doggedly defended her calf, keeping it away from the Orcas and sometimes even buoying it up in the water.  Amazingly, the tactic worked - after almost two hours, there was a brief lull in the Orca onslaught and the Gray Whales escaped into shallow water.  The Killer Whales then broke off the attack and headed back out to sea.

1. Killer Whales Orcinus orca, attacking a Gray Whale Eschrichtius robustus female and calf, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.  The tall, triangular dorsal fin of a male Killer Whale is visible on the left, along with several other Killer Whales.  The head of the Gray Whale calf is visible on the right. 

2. Gray Whale E. robustus mother and calf, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

3. Killer Whale O. orca (left), attacking Gray Whales E. robustus (right), Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

4. A Killer Whale O. orca (left) rams a Gray Whale E. robustus (right), Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

5. A Killer Whale O. orca rams a Gray Whale E. robustus, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

6. A male Killer Whale O. orca alongside a Gray Whale E. robustus, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

7. A Gray Whale E. robustus raises its flukes as a Killer Whale O. orca approaches from the left, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

8. Two Killer Whales O. orca, one raising its flukes, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

9. Large male Killer Whale O. orca, with a tall, triangular dorsal fin, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

10. Killer Whales O. orca, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

11. Large male Killer Whale O. orca, with a tall, triangular dorsal fin, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

12. Large male Killer Whale O. orca, with tall, triangular dorsal fin, Monterey Bay, California, USA, May 9, 2004.

Other highlights from this trip included Humpback Whales and Flesh-footed Shearwaters.

This pelagic trip was organized by Monterey Bay Whale Watch:

http://www.montereyseabirds.com/

Other accounts of this trip, with photos, can be found at:

http://www.montereyseabirds.com/SeabirdTripReport040509.htm

http://montereybay.com/creagrus/MtyBayOrcaattack.html

© Stephen J. Davies

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