Two swimmers off the coast of Vancouver narrowly avoided a meet-and-greet with a curious killer whale — and it was all caught on film.
It all unfolded over this past weekend as a pod of killer whales swam near scenic Whytecliff Park.
Luckily, local photographer Robin Leveille was above the pod on a bluff and captured the moment when Curious Orca (no relation to George) went in for a closer look at two nearby swimmers.
And the swimmers were like, "Nah, we're good."
But that didn't stop Curious Orca, who swam up to where the swimmers climbed out to look them in the eye.
You can see the whole video that Leveille posted on Instagram here.
A lot of people thought the rare encounter was pretty cool.
"This is very cool!" Instagram user dawnrice1967 wrote. "What an amazing experience to have this encounter."
Commenter christianne_rob was also jealous: "I am SO envious that you got to see Orcas up close and personal in their natural habitat. This alone, makes me feel like I need to visit (or move) to the West Coast. Orcas are my absolute FAVORITE! You are SO lucky!"
Other commenters, though, were like, "No."
"Not TODAY!!!!!" mizzmy929 said.
"Pretty sure those 2 guys were just about to be lunch for those whales, terrifying!" vdubmomma added.
But Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a whale researcher at the California Killer Whale Project, said that in her opinion, it was not an act of aggression or predatory behavior on the part of Curious Orca.
“I think it was pure curiosity,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I just think they were super curious and taking a close look and then on their way.”
There has been no documented killer whale attack on a human in the wild, she said, adding: “I don’t think the first time ever would have happened then.”
The killer whales, using their sonar, also likely knew the two men weren't prey long before going in for a closer look, Schulman-Janiger added.
Michael Millstein, a spokesman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said biologists who reviewed the footage also thought the behavior was more investigative in nature.
"Killer whales are very discriminating with regards to prey — for instance, they can even tell one type of salmon from another through echolocation," he said in an email.
Still, Schulman-Janiger said humans should never initiate contact with killer whales and be respectful of their environment. They are, after all, top predators and a lot bigger, so unintentional injuries could happen.
But even if the killer whale, which may have been younger and more curious, had caught up to the men, Schulman-Janiger said she’s certain nothing would have happened.
“I just think it was an absolutely, amazing capture.”
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jason Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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