WATCH: In an incredible battle caught on camera, four humpbacks go head-to-head with a pod of hungry transient orcas, to save a sea lion. April Lawrence reports.
The humpback whales spotted in record numbers in the Salish Sea were flexing their fins in the waters off Sooke last week.
The usually gentle giants came to the aid of a stellar sea lion being attacked by a pod of transient killer whales.
“They were trumpeting, they were tail slapping, doing anything that could try and push those orcas away,” said Captain Russ Nicks, with B.C. Whale Tours in Victoria
Nicks took video and photographs of the marine mammal throw down as his passengers watched in stunned silence.
“It was unbelievable, they were just amazed by what they were seeing,” he said.
This isn’t the first time humpbacks have been caught on camera helping out the little guy.
BBC cameras filmed humpbacks off the coast of California in 2012 trying to save a grey whale calf from becoming orca lunch.
“90 per cent of these encounter researchers are seeing between humpbacks and transient killer whales involve another species,” said Michael Harris with the Pacific Whale Watch Association.
So why the heroics? Science is stumped so far — it could be a turf war, the toothless humpbacks trying to show the aggressive orcas who’s boss.
“Giving them some second thought if they ever want to come back and go after a calf, a humpback calf,” said Harris.
Sort of like they did off Sooke in August, the hungry transient killer whales clashing with two massive humpbacks protecting one of their calves.
Or could it be that they’re just well-meaning saviours of the sea?
What local whale experts do know is they’ve never seen anything like it.
And the stellar sea lion? Well from all accounts it’ll live to see another day thanks to the brave and benevolent actions of its aquatic bodyguards.