Watch: Unbelievable Video of a Swimmer's Chance Encounter With a Family of Killer Whales
Though captive orcas have killed four people, most notably in January 2010, when a 12,000-pound bull male dismembered a trainer at SeaWorld, there is no record of any wild killer whales attacking humans.
Keep that nugget in mind when you watch this video of swimmer Will Gerard getting up close and personal with an inquisitive pod of the ocean’s apex predators during a December dip in New Zealand’s Pelorus Sound.
"When I saw the dorsal fins and realized it was an orca I was so excited I didn't have time to be afraid and get out of the water,” Gerard told The Marlborough Express. Highly intelligent hunters, orcas would “know the difference between a human and a seal,” said Roy Grose, a local conservationist.
It’s illegal in New Zealand to willfully swim with wild orcas, but that does not apply in this case. “The orcas approached him and that’s fine, there’s no problem with that,” said Grose.
While Gerard’s meeting with these black-and-white beauties was dumb luck, there are opportunities to see wild orcas in their native habitat—if you can afford it.
For the small fee of just over $1,100 per person, Vancouver’s ROW Sea Kayak Adventures invites kayakers on a guided tour of the Johnstone Strait, home to 200 orcas, the largest resident pod of killer whales in the world.
As part of the paddling-by-day, camping-by-night, six-day excursion, guides lower hydrophones into the water so kayakers can listen to the "staccato snaps, click, and pops" that the whales emit.
Don’t expect any of those sounds in this video—the inquiring orcas are silent. But fast-forward to the 33-second mark, and listen to Gerard’s exuberant whoop of joy.
After a once-in-a-lifetime encounter like this, can you blame him?