A close orca encounter Tuesday in Puget Sound, Wash., included several anxious moments for a family whose boat was shoved and spun by the mammal.
“Why is it doing this?” Deb Syna, one of the boaters, asks in the accompanying footage.
The footage, captured by Syna and her 16-year-old daughter, Nina, begins with the male transient orca alongside their 17-foot boat. Syna’s husband, Dirk Morgan, also was aboard.
The boat was idle during the orca’s visit.
After Syna’s “Hi, how are you?” greeting the mammal begins to gently nudge and shove the vessel. “It’s pushing our boat!” Syna exclaims, and later adds, “Why is he spinning us?”
(The second clip shows the orca swiftly pushing the boat.)
The family remained calm throughout the encounter, and at no time did the orca appear aggressive. But Syna was concerned enough to suggest to the killer whale, “Keep going. Go on,” and advise Nina to grab a safety railing.
Syna told the Orca Network, which shared both videos: “He played with the boat for about 10 minutes, going under and rocking, then pushing and then spinning us before he swam off.”
She explained to Go Skagit: “We went around a couple of times.”
Morgan, smartly, did not start the engine because that could have injured the mammal.
So why did the orca, a 17-year-old male cataloged as T65A2, behave in this manner?
The Orca Network’s Facebook posts inspired dozens of theories, while the Washington-based nonprofit offered what it considered the most plausible explanations:
“Some of the many possibilities for his behavior: trying to flush out prey, curiosity, aggression, play, enrichment, communication, and/or a behavior/communication in orca language that we humans don’t know or may never truly understand.”
Ralph Downs, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officer, told Go Skagit: “It’s a rare thing, but every now and then they decide to get a little frisky. Sometimes the whales just decide to check us out and use us as toys.”