Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Brutal, Breath-Taking Beauty – Transient Killer Whales

In our work as the Marine Education and Research Society, Jared Towers, Christie McMillan and I went out on December 4th, 2010 on the waters of Northern Vancouver Island in the hopes of finding a Humpback Whale. We didn’t. Instead Nature gifted us with two sightings of Transient (mammal-eating) Killer Whales; a total of 16 animals (now also known as “Bigg’s Killer Whales“).

First we found the T55s and T19s. The lighting on this December day was so beautiful; when these whales blew, rainbows appeared to erupt around them.

A Mother Hunting: Transient Killer Whale mother T140 and her calf chasing Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. Note Telegraph Cove in the background. Image: ©Jackie Hildering

Then, when in transit back to Alert Bay, we found T139, the T140s and T141s.  We had also seen +/-300 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins in the area so knew that there was a possibility that these Killer Whales might choose to have dinner. The display we then witnessed was both brutal and breath-taking.

One of the mature females erupted out of the water higher than I have ever witnessed. She cleared the surface by at least 1.5 body lengths, apparently having rammed the dolphin that was spinning through the air ahead of her. Other spectacular leaps followed, one where mother and calf leapt at the same time – mother high, her calf lower but in almost perfect synchronicity.

Once aware that the Transient Killer Whales were there, the dolphins cascaded away with incredible energy. We could see them still in full flight, several kilometres away, even more than 10 minutes after the initial attack.  But yes, at least one dolphin did not get away. It is the role of Transient Killer Whales to eat other marine mammals; they need to feed their babies too.

I share some of these photos of these encounters at the link below. Realize that the images were taken with a 400 mm lens.

Even after my 12 years on (and under) these waters, I am left stunned at the area’s beauty, biodiversity and the opportunity to learn. 

Click here for more photos from the December 4, 2010 encounter.




11 Responses to “Brutal, Breath-Taking Beauty – Transient Killer Whales”

  1. Gareth Hopkins

    Incredible shots! Wow! (and yes, I voted today, as I have been for the past several weeks 🙂 )

    • jackiehildering

      Thank you so much for the support Gareth. Means the world to know you are voting and I know you would have been as loud and excited as I was when this remarkable T event happened!

  2. Natasha

    as David Attenborough would say: That’s what those dolphins get for picking on the baby Dals…haha I can feel you cringing….

    Absolutely fantastic photos and what an experience to witness WOW!!

  3. erica

    oh my goodness, these photographs are stunning, jackie! right outside of telegraph cove, too! thank you, thank you for sharing..


  4. Hella

    Great photos Jackie! I would have loved to join you guys, on a beautiful winters day in the Strait (who wouldn’t?!). Once witnessed from a Very far away distance, I hope one day to be able to see nature like this.
    And yes, I keep on voting. Good luck!!

  5. Bruce

    Hi . Well all in all I am concerned about the fishing nets being intangled on humpback whales, or any animal. The problem is not in finding out how many whales are hurt or killed by this, but the facts are how do we prevent it other than not fishing !!!! Controled fishing is of course necessary to feed me and others. The demand to feed our increased population is still increasing so the answer is ????????
    Any moneys raised or collected should be used in preventing these intanglemants.
    Another question for me would be, would the fisher men not know if their nets were involved????

    • jackiehildering

      Agree fully Bruce. We can’t stop the impacts if we do not understand where, when, how it is happening. If the threat is not understood, it can’t be managed nor can federal funding come to have a structural disentanglement program.

      Some types of fisheries leave their gear in the water and return for collection e.g. crab lines. The fishers, when aware, would report the entanglement but often they are not aware.

      It is unrealistic to think we can have zero fisheries but we can sure do better in managing fisheries. The moneys we need your support for (with one minute of voting a day) ARE to stop this from happening. We have 7 years of passionate volunteer invested in studying these humpbacks – all financed by our own resources. Please see for how you can help.


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