Surprise orca encounter seems too magical to be true; ‘My jaw dropped’

Surprise orca encounter seems too magical to be true; ‘My jaw dropped’


Surprise orca encounter seems too magical to be true; ‘My jaw dropped’

Domenic Biagini embarked from a San Diego port Saturday hoping for a photo opportunity with majestic blue whales, but instead he found himself in the rare company of killer whales.

“I literally couldn’t believe it,” the La Jolla-based photographer told USA Today. “My jaw dropped when I found them.”

Five of the six orcas encountered Saturday off San Diego. Photo: ©Domenic Biagini

Biagini’s stunning video footage (posted above), captured 10-25 miles offshore, has been featured by local TV news stations, but the rarity of his magical encounter was not widely reported.

The orcas plying this remote pelagic zone are Bigg’s transient killer whales, which prey on marine mammals such as dolphins, sea lions, and even gray whale calves.

Six transient orcas surface off San Diego. Photo: ©Domenic Biagini

The six orcas that Biagini spotted – five adult females and a juvenile – are part of a group cataloged as CA216s.

The most prominent member is nicknamed Jagged, because of the ragged appearance of her dorsal fin. According to Alisa Schulman-Janiger, co-founder of the California Killer Whale Project, the matriarch of this group is Jagged’s mom.

Bryce Hensley watches orcas off San Diego. Photo: ©Domenic Biagini

Transient killer whales rarely travel as far south as San Diego. This particular group has only been documented in the region once – last October.

“They’re most commonly seen in Monterey Bay,” Schulman-Janiger said, adding that sightings have been documented as far north as British Columbia, Canada.

Orcas surface in stunningly clear water off San Diego. Photo: ©Domenic Biagini

Biagini, who has a knack for being where the action unfolds, wrote on Facebook: “Spending time alone with Orcas on a small boat in the middle of the ocean is an experience I will never forget. Viewed from above, the water was a perfect serene blue that served as a beautiful window into the lives of these majestic animals.”

When the photographer finally left the killer whales, he was 25 miles southwest of Mission Bay, and the mammals were headed farther offshore.

–Images are courtesy of ©Domenic Biagini

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