Northwest News

They were just out for a swim when a pair of orca gave them a show they’ll never forget

In this photo taken July 31, 2015, four orca whales swim in the Salish Sea near the San Juan Islands. Two young swimmers in New Zealand got an up-close and personal experience with a pair of orca.
In this photo taken July 31, 2015, four orca whales swim in the Salish Sea near the San Juan Islands. Two young swimmers in New Zealand got an up-close and personal experience with a pair of orca. Associated Press

This isn’t an exaggerated fish tale.

A pair of orca off New Zealand gave an up-close and personal experience to two young swimmers that they are unlikely to forget for the rest of their lives.

The youngsters were swimming off Waiheke Island near Auckland, when a pair orca suddenly appeared in the bay they were swimming in and started heading right for them. The kids, understandably, were startled and scared, as onlookers on the shore told them to stay still. The orcas swam on either side of them merely feet away on their way out of the bay, and the kids were unharmed, though they will have one heck of a story to tell.

USAToday.com secured video of the encounter that was taken from the shore by Creed Pierce:

Don’t go looking to recreate a similar experience here in the Pacific Northwest.

First of all, the water’s too cold to go swimming, and secondly, the Southern Resident orca pods that live in Puget Sound have laws to protect them.

In an effort to improve boater behavior around the southern resident orcas and keep them safe, the Washington state Legislature passed RCW 77.15.740 in 2008, which restricts boats from approaching within 200 yards of an orca or positioning itself within 400 yards of their path. It’s also illegal to engage the transmission of a boat within 200 yards of an orca or feed a southern resident whale.

Even at a safe and legal distance, seeing the whales in the wild is an awe-inspiring opportunity, and occasionally there are ways to see them even closer.

Last weekend, beach goers off the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia were treated to some orcas rubbing their bodies along the pebbly shoreline, according to a story and video obtained by cbc.ca:

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