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Oct 28

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Killer whale flings harbor seal 60 feet into the air

Killerwhale1 copy A transient killer whale known as T069C appears to have set an unofficial world record for seal tossing, by using its tail fluke to fling a harbor seal an astonishing 60 feet into the air off Port Angeles, Washington. 

 

(The height is listed at 80 feet in the video footage posted below, but many have agreed on 60 feet as a more accurate figure.)

 

A pod of transient killer whales (or orcas), which are different than Southern Resident killer whales in that they prey on marine mammals, had been hunting near a massive school of anchovies.

Transient killer whales are known for playing with their food, either before or after killing it, and sometimes toss seals or dolphins across the ocean’s surface.

orca

But the Herculean toss by TO69C, part of what’s known as the TO69 family group, was being described as an athletic feat similar to a football player’s punt or field-goal attempt.

“It was a National Geographic moment, but also kind of like an Olympics moment,” Schulman-Janiger said.

The researcher was aboard the Island Explorer 3. The video footage was captured via drone from a vessel run by Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours.

Orca2

Schulman-Janiger said she noticed TO69C trying to fling something by turning on his back and whipping its tail fluke skyward, so she trained her camera on the killer whale. (TO69C is the oldest of three siblings that were traveling with their mom during this hunting expedition.)

The researcher also noted that the harbor seal seemed to be alive as this was happening, because she could see its wide-open eyes through her lens.

The successful toss occurred on the fourth attempt, and the harbor seal soared briefly with a flock of very surprised gulls, before splashing down and disappearing.

“I lost sight of it as it was still going up – it went beyond where I was aiming – and I couldn’t believe how much time passed before it came down,” Schulman-Janiger said.

It was assumed that the seal died on impact.

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