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What Is It?
The orca is actually the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. The popular name for the orca is derived from ‘asesina-balenas’, a term 18th century Basque whalers used in reference to them. It was based on their observations of orca pods. The orca’s easily distinguishable by its black back, white chest & sides, white patches above the eyes & the dark-grey ‘saddle-patch’ across its back. Its heavy & robust body features paddle-like pectoral fins & a large dorsal fin, which, for males, can be up to 6 feet tall. Males are larger than females weighing over 6 tons with lengths from 20 to 26 feet. The largest ever recorded was an 11-ton male measuring 32 feet. Orcas have good eyesight, a good sense of touch, & excellent hearing. Through their exceptional echolocation abilities they identify objects & prey in their environment by emitting clicking noises & listening for echoes. They live in groups called pods & are a highly intelligent & highly social species. It’s claimed that they’re intelligent to the point of self-awareness. They’ve vocal behaviors, which can be particular to a specific group & passed across generations, which is an indication of animal culture.
6 Douglas Robertson
In 1972, about 200 miles from the Galapagos Islands, a pod of orcas rammed the hull of Lucette, a 43-foot-long wooden schooner captained by author & sailor Douglas Robertson. They collected rainwater & caught turtles, mahi-mahi & flying fish while using a makeshift sail heading towards Central America.
5 Hans Kretschmer
While Hans Kretschmer was resting on his board, an orca reportedly sunk its teeth into his thigh. Apparently, this is the only documented incident which involved a wild orca and a human.
Where Is It Located?
They are a cosmopolitan species meaning they’re found in a wide variety of marine environments, in all of the world’s oceans & most of its seas. In fact, with the exception of certain areas of the Arctic as well as the Black & Baltic seas, orcas are found everywhere as they adapt very well to any climate. According to Sea World, they’re the most widely distributed mammal second only to humans. Their striking appearance & imposing size along with their intelligence, playfulness & trainability have made them popular at aquatic theme parks.
4 Alexis Martinez
Alexis Martinez was one of the most experienced trainers at the Loro Parque, in Tenerife. On December 24, 2009, he was working with Keto, a 14-year-old male orca. Keto who was born at Sea World Orlando Florida, had been described by other trainers as not being ‘completely predictable’. While practicing the routine for a show set to take place on Christmas Day, Keto rammed Martinez in the chest.
In Western Culture, Pliny the Elder first described orcas around 70 AD. Along with their intelligence & ability to engage, their sheer mass & strength is enough. With strong conical teeth, which can grow up to 4 inches in length their jaws exert an almost-inescapable grip. They’ve been observed throwing seals several feet in the air with their flukes.
3 Keltie Byrne
The first was February 20, 1991, at Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia. When Keltie Byrne, a part-time trainer fell into the tank, Tilikum rushed to her & grabbed her by the foot. Two smaller female orcas present in the tank joined. Once, Byrne managed to reach the side & tried to get out but the orcas pulled her back into the pool.
2 Daniel Dukes
SeaWorld Orlando Florida, July 5, 1999: The night before, Daniel Dukes evaded park security & hid until after closing. He then entered the orca’s tank. When park workers approached the tank the next day, 27-year-old Daniel Dukes was found. According to Sea World staff this wasn’t the first instance of Dukes diving with sea mammals unclothed.
1 Dawn Brancheau
Dawn Brancheau was an experienced trainer, who, on February 24, 2010, was part of ‘Dine with Shamu’ show at Sea World Orlando alongside Tilikum, the show’s main attraction. Towards the end of the performance, Tilikum reacted poorly to one of her commands. A BAFTA Award-nominated 2013 documentary called ‘Blackfish’ focuses on Tilikum.
Once in the water with them, there’s little you can do. The incidents that occurred, involved trainers.