Clash of the titans: Amazing pictures of killer whales attacking pod of sperm whales twice their size on hunting expedition
by Jetwing · Published · Updated
These unique pictures show the moment a group of killer whales attacked much larger sperm whales on a relentless hunting expedition.
Five orcas pursued a pod of six sperm whales, whipping up a bloody frenzy in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka.
The stunning images of the hunt were captured by photographer Shawn Heinrichs, a diver who found the courage to snap away just yards from the deadly fight.
Scroll down for video
Clash: A sperm whale surfaces accompanied by two killer whales during a vicious hunt off the coast of Sri Lanka
Unfair fight: The orcas targeted a pod of sperm whales which were much larger than them
Vicious: The sleek black orcas fearlessly attacked the sperm whales in search of food
‘In all my years on the ocean I had never heard of such a thing and certainly never imagined I would see it with own eyes,’ he said.
‘This was without a doubt the most incredible encounter I have ever experienced in the oceans and something I will never forget.’
Mr Heinrichs, 41, was searching for blue whales along with a team of other divers.
He entered the waters to document the battle despite being almost unable to see thanks to the gallons of blood suspended near the surface of the water.
Hunt: The killer whales are shown here circling the sperm whales during the remarkably co-ordinated expedition
Frenzy: The predators and the prey thrash around together at the surface of the ocean
Escape: The grey sperm whale tries to swim away from three black killer whales
Bold: Orcas usually hunt small fish but occasionally team up to go after whales but larger than themselves
‘At first there was a frothing, dark pile of shapes ahead of me,’ he said. ‘The largest orca in the pod then broke off and made a beeline for me, pinging me with its sonar.
‘I had heard warnings before about the extreme dangers of swimming with wild orcas, especially when these apex predators are engaged in a hunt.
‘But in my heart I knew they were highly intelligent and evolved creatures who should have no interest in hurting me.
‘The orca came right to me then veered off at the last moment, drifting down into the deep blue below.’
Danger: But fearless photographer Shawn Heinrichs got up close with the whales to capture these stunning images
Majestic: But killer whales are brutal in their dedication to hunting down food
Death throes: The orcas managed to separate a juvenile from the rest of the pod to increase their chances of success
The photographer, from Colorado, returned to the boat and watched as the orcas managed to separate a juvenile sperm whale from his pod.
He was unable to see if the killer whales could finish the job, but nonetheless describes the event as the highlight of his diving career so far.
‘Jumping into the middle of all that may seem crazy to many but it was the only way to capture the imagery,’ Mr Heinrichs said.
Killer whales usually eat fish such as salmon, herring, tuna and sometimes various species of shark. They have also been known to attack other whales, but usually target smaller and weaker animals.
The average orca measures around seven metres – less than half as long as sperm whales, which are typically around 16 metres.