A pod of killer whales and a great white shark engaged in a fierce fight to the death off the South Australian coast.
These two titans of the sea encountered each other on Feb. 2, and Captain Matt Waller witnessed the subsequent bout. The heavyweight title fight dragged on for several rounds, as the pod of orcas tangled with the shark at length.
Waller, who captains the appropriately-named Shark Warrior, said he saw the fight from a distance but didn’t capture any detailed photos or videos.
However, Waller said he saw some orcas keeping the shark at the surface and cutting off its escape, while other members of the pod attacked it. Witnesses also described moments where an orca would launch itself from the water and body slam the shark. Passengers on the boat had different reactions, cheering, crying, or laughing as they saw the battle unfold.
The passengers could also hear the orcas vocalizing, apparently communicating with each other during their assault. In a last-ditch effort, the shark appeared to flee, but then turned and charged at the orcas. The orcas then surrounded it one last time and tore it to pieces. Waller said a sudden silence overtook the ocean, and the boat, as the orcas departed the area.
Locals said they had no recollection of any other shark versus orca fights in South Australia, where killer whales are rarely seen. In this instance, the orcas probably launched a preemptive attack in defense of the calves in their pod.
Those who fear sharks might applaud the victors, but the local tourism industry is lamenting the great white’s death. The area is a popular cage diving spot for encountering sharks up close and personal. They believe the attacks will cause the surviving shark population to scatter. Waller said his company has already made several trips, but they did not see a single great white. Locals fear customers will cancel their trips if the sharks stay in hiding, and this will negatively impact the economy.
While touring companies may not see a great white shark for a while, Waller said the fight was something they may never see again. “The realization began to hit them of what they had just witnessed—the pinnacle of nature,” he says of his passengers during the fight’s aftermath.”They would never look at Discovery Channel or National Geographic the same again.”