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08/19/2005: "Boy Survives Bump From Killer Whale"

This event happened today in Ketchikan Alaska, a little town here in Southeast Alaska where I have visited often:

"As he swam underwater, Ellis said, he heard a ``boom'' that sounded like a gun.

``I heard that one big sound twice and I thought that, well, maybe the guy just missed his first shot,'' Ellis said

Ellis stood up in water about chest high. Arntzen said she was stunned to see a dorsal fin more than 6 feet tall break the water's surface a few yards behind Ellis.

The orca, Arntzen said, dwarfed the boy. She began to yell.

Over on the boat, Kevin Miller could see the killer whale heading toward his son.

``Seeing (Ellis) swimming over there and seeing this pressure wave and this fin, this huge fin come up right behind him, it was just amazing,'' he said.

Ellis turned and saw the dorsal fin. Then he was underwater facing the whale's head.

``I turned around, HUH! And it's there,'' he said.

The whale bumped Ellis on the left side of his chest and shoulder, then arched around him.

``Ellis was in the middle and he was totally surrounded,'' Kathy Arntzen said.

She reached forward and grabbed Ellis as the pressure wave caused by the whale's rapid advance swept them toward the beach.

``Within a second we were on the shore,'' Kathy said. ``We got out fast.''

As the orca returned to deeper water, another six killer whales surfaced near the beach.

The killer whales swam along the beach for a hundred yards or so and then returned. They swam back and forth several times. On the last pass, the largest orca rolled onto its side, raised a pectoral fin and smacked the water about five times. Then it hit the water with its tail. The other whales followed in a line and began doing the same.

``It was like the whole bay was boiling at this point,'' Kathy Arntzen said. ``They were up and down and making noise. ... It was like they were signaling us.''

Transient whales can use echolocation to identify prey, but usually use it subtly because their marine mammal prey are smart and hear well.

``It was likely a transient that thought, up until the last moment, that it had a seal in the shallows,'' Matkin said.

The whale might have gotten close enough to see the boy, realized he was not prey and broken off the attack, Ford said.

Ford said killer whales slap tails and fins to express emotions at different levels and contexts. The behavior here was perhaps triggered by what the whales themselves likely perceived as an odd occurrence, he said. "

You can find the entire article at Boy survives bump from killer whale.

BTW, Happy Birthday to two of my favorite people in the entire universe who share the same b-day, today! Jenni W and Rick Q. I love you both SOOOO much!