But perhaps more amazing is that a large male in the group greeted a researcher and her companions, who were dead in the water aboard a 19-foot boat, with a belly-bump. (See video here.)
"We were all beside ourselves; the guys on the boat were yelling. We couldn't believe what was happening," said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, who is involved in a long-term photo-identification project involving transient killer whales, and has studied these same specimens numerous times.
Passengers aboard the Christopher out of Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach also got extremely up-close looks. (Note: It was raining during the predation events, which did not occur close to either vessel, and there were no quality images available at the time this post was published.)
Schulman-Janiger, who was with Eric Martin and his son Cody, said the four killer whales, or orcas, are part of the CA51 matriline and included a mother (CA51), her two sons and a female calf nicknamed "Comet." All four killer whales swam to the boat as if curious about its inhabitants.
The belly-bumper is a 14-year-old male who approached the boat, turned on its side and slid gently into the vessel.
"We were not moving one iota," Schulman-Janiger said. "And this killer whale was not angry and did not smack us or anything like that. He just slid up and gently nudged the boat with his belly. I could swear they knew who we were."
Earlier the researcher posted this description on her Facebook: "When we arrived on scene in the light rain, the whales appeared to 'greet' us: all of them came over to our boat, and under us. The large male actually rushed to our boat, suddenly stopped (put the brakes on), turned on his side, and lightly contacted the boat--with his [pectoral] fin partly inside the boat!"
Last season this matriline of seven whales (another daughter and her two offspring were absent Sunday) visited the L.A./Orange County area in September and December 2011, and in January and May of 2012.
They often brought other matrilines with them, Schulman-Janiger wrote. This group of killer whales is most commonly seen off the Monterey area.
"Hopefully these mammal-eating specialists will be around for a few more days before heading back up north," Schulman-Janiger's Facebook post continued. "Watch out, all you seals, sea lions, and dolphins between Los Angeles and Dana Point!!"
--Image of CA51, captured Sunday afternoon aboard the Christopher, is courtesy of Harbor Breeze Cruises