Killer Whales Visit Wellington Harbour

Last week Wellington was treated to an incredible visit from a pod of Orca Whales. The stunning pod of seven came into the harbour to hunt stingray last Monday. Evidently the Killer Whales enjoyed it so much that they returned on Tuesday, much to the delight of Wellingtonians walking by the harbour.

The lively pod seemed to be on a tour of the bay, making appearances at Frank Kitts Park, Oriental Bay and finally Evans Bay. Incredible images were captured by both photographers and video-makers who were in the right place at the right time. Wedding photographer, Paul Howell, couldn't believe his luck as he was already at the bay with his equipment when the pod of Orca appeared. His series of photographs of the Killer whales are truly remarkable.

Orca Whales Wellington Harbour

Talented Wedding Photographer, Paul Howell, was in the right place at the right time last Tuesday.

Howell, who couldn't believe his luck, commented on his blog that he was "right there on the waterfront taking some pictures for a forthcoming wedding when they appeared and came straight at us" and that he thought he would see them quite so close in the wild. The photographer's only regret being that he didn't have enough time to change to a wide angle lens.

Other Wellingtonians were also quick to make the most of the incredible opportunity. Matt Wood, Ocean Sports Centre Manager, went out on a boat with his friend to capture amazing video footage of the pod of whales, which aired on Campbell Live the same evening.

While Wood and his friend were wise enough to stay at a respectable distance from the whales, others were not. One man decided to go for a snorkel with the Orcas, and while the man was unharmed it is not recommended. However, Killer Whales, despite their menacing name, are not known to attack humans.

The scientific name for Killer Whales or Orca Whales is Orcinus Orca. 'Orca' is Latin for 'a kind of whale' whereas 'Orcinus' more ominously means 'belonging to the realms of the dead' or 'bringer of death.' It originates from the Mythical Orcus, Roman god of death and the underworld, who according to Britannica, was also known as a punisher. Killer Whales have gained this reputation due to their vigorous, unforgiving hunting techniques and because they frequently hunt other marine animals regardless of size. Orcas eat seals, sea lions, squid, fish and even other whales! They have been known to hunt and eat Narwhales, Belugas and Grey Whales.

Killer Whales are intelligent hunters and work in groups to capture their prey.

Killer Whales are intelligent hunters and work in groups to capture their prey. The Orcas often use a technique of creating waves to push a seal off the ice. Photo Credit: Telegraph UK.

However, while savage creatures out in the ocean, they are also known for their great intelligence and trainability in captivity, making them all the more mysterious. Despite their massive size- Orcas can grow up to 9.75 metres and weigh up to 5,443 kg - their aqua acrobatics amaze crowds with their incredible combination of strength and grace. Of course, the only place we want to see these beautiful creatures is in the ocean. Wellingtonians experienced this amazing sight for themselves last week and we can only hope the Orcas pay us a visit some time this winter!

Sources: http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/marine-life/orca-killer-whale.htm
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/mammals/killer-whale/