Subject: A rare orca gathering (fwd)

mike williamson (
Sun, 26 Dec 1999 11:51:13 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 1999 12:08:12 -0800
From: Howard Garrett <>
Subject: A rare orca gathering

Call it a Christmas present...

14-Dec-1999 Tuesday 

DANA POINT -- Call it a whale of a good time. 

A rare orca gathering off the Southern California coast this weekend gave
fishermen and tourists a glimpse of the little understood social habits of
these giant whales. 

Between 60 to 70 orcas, one of the largest groups of orcas to venture near
Orange County's coastline, formed a "super pod" for a day, circling boats
and breaching before breaking up and heading out to sea. 

"It's one of those things that's really neat," said John Heyning, a killer
whale specialist. "Unfortunately, it's one of those things we don't

Typically, there are about 10 to 15 orcas to a pod. But this weekend's
gathering was a "super pod," a phenomenon that brings a handful of pods
together for a short period before the orcas disperse back into their
smaller groups. 

Researchers said the reason for the gathering is unclear. 

"There just isn't enough information. . . . But it's believed to be a
social gathering," Heyning said yesterday. "They get together for a while
and then break up back into their own groups." 

Chris Pica, skipper of the Sum Fun charter boat, saw the black-and-white
whales Sunday about two miles off the Dana Point breakwater. 

"The whales surrounded us in a loose circle that extended for more than a
mile from the boat," he said. "Some of them breached and others held their
tails out of the water. It was a great show." 

The orcas, also known as killer whales, then swam north and circled a
sportfishing boat off Laguna Beach. 

Colin Goulding of Swansea, Wales, was standing along the boat's rail when
they appeared. He said a few of the younger whales came within 10 yards of
the boat. 

"Some of the others stayed farther away, showing their fins as the sun
set," said Goulding, who was in California on vacation. "The whole setting
was fantastic." 

Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who studies whales for the American Cetacean
Society, believes the super group may have come close to shore looking for
fish to eat. 

Although several hundred orcas make their home off the California coast,
there has never been a reported attack against humans, said Mike Fergus of
the National Marine Fisheries Service in Long Beach. 

Howard Garrett
Tokitae Orca Conservation Foundation
2403 So. Northbluff Rd.
Greenbank WA 98253
(360) 678-3451
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