Shawn Heinrichs captures epic battle between orcas and sperm whales

Epic Orca and Sperm Whale battle image captured underwater.

Wetpixel’s senior moderator, Shawn Heinrichs (shawnh), has captured a dramatic underwater encounter between Orcas and Sperm Whales off the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The images have been featured in Wired magazine. From the article:

On April 18, a half-dozen orcas battled a pod of sperm whales off the southern coast of Sri Lanka. The unusual encounter is one of fewer than a dozen such recorded conflicts — and the first observed in the Indian Ocean.“We saw the water churning on the horizon,” said Shawn Heinrichs, a photographer and filmmaker who was in the area looking for blue whales. Heinrichs and his colleagues steered their boat toward the patch of white water. As they got closer, they saw an enormous dorsal fin slicing through the water — a killer whale trademark — and then noticed the group of sperm whales, clustered together in a defensive stance.

At that point, Heinrichs did what many of us would not do: He jumped in.

“I grabbed my camera and slid off the side of the boat,” he said. “There was a frothing, dark pile of shapes ahead of me. When I drifted away from the boat, the largest orca in the pod made a beeline for me but veered off at the last moment and dove deep.”

For about 30 minutes, the five orcas repeatedly slammed into the half-dozen sperm whales, bashing and nipping at them, leaving the waters murky and bloody. “It was this pile of chaos,” Heinrichs said.

When the encounter ended, it appeared as though the orcas may have separated a juvenile sperm whale from the pod, and then had either drowned it or eaten it, Heinrichs said. “Whether they got it or not, I couldn’t tell.”

Wetpixel members Phil Sokol and Douglas Seifert were also present for the incredible encounter. We can’t wait to see their images too! View the full gallery of images on Wired.

Shawn also captured video footage on the encounter: