Charismatic, handsome, and highly intelligent, killer whales, also known as orcas, hold a special place in the hearts of animal lovers and conservationists. The killer whale earned its name by being one of nature’s great “apex predators,” swimming at the top of the ocean’s food chain. These brainy creatures communicate with each other using a highly sophisticated language, which they can even use to coordinate their hunting activities.
On a summer morning in 2015, a pod of killer whales was in British Columbia’s Hartley Bay looking for breakfast. A young female made a rookie mistake that could have been deadly. She swam too close to shore and ended up stranded on some rocks. Worse, the tide was going out. The poor orca was terrified and literally cried out for help. Fortunately, someone with a little knowledge of marine mammals heard her and knew who to call for help.
It wasn’t so simple as tying a line to the stranded whale and dragging her back to the water: the sharp, barnacle covered rocks would have inflicted severe injuries. The only thing to do was to wait until the tide came back in and hope the water would be deep enough for her to free herself. In the meantime, it was absolutely essential to protect her from the sun and keep her skin hydrated. The rescuers covered the orca with towels and spent the next 8 hours pouring water on her. George Fisher, one of the rescuers, recalled, “At first she was stressed out — you could see that her breathing was getting a little faster. But after a little while, I think she knew that we were there to help her.”
As you’ll see in the video posted below, the story had a happy ending. The tide was high enough that the stranded orca was able to swim away to safety while her human friends cheered.
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