By Pete Thomas
When Capt. Todd Mansur spotted a floating whale carcass through his binoculars on Saturday, he had a feeling there might be hungry sharks nearby.
Sure enough, the dead minke whale, believed to have been killed by orcas, had become a buffet for perhaps two dozen blue sharks. The sleek predators star in a highlight video published Sunday by Dana Wharf Whale Watching.
The surreal footage was captured beyond the remote windward side of Santa Catalina Island during an 8-hour excursion that also featured live whale and dolphin sightings.
As viewers can see, the sharks were not frenzied; they roamed the whale’s perimeter slowly and took turns tearing flesh from the base of its fluke.
Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a researcher who was aboard the Ocean Adventures during this encounter, noted that the whale’s tongue and throat were missing.
Transient orcas, or killer whales, are known to prey on minke whales, and removing the protein-rich tongue is one of their trademarks. The researcher said it was likely that orcas killed the 30-foot whale at some point before the sharks arrived.
Encounters such as this are rare for Southern California whale watchers because these events typically occur far offshore.
Most whale-watching voyages last 2-3 hours and boats do not stray far from the mainland. Dana Wharf offers sporadic 8-hour voyages – the next is scheduled Jan. 28.