Victoria researcher Josh McInnes spotted the very rare Type D killer whale while crossing the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica. (Courtesy of Josh McInnes)

Victoria researcher finds ‘holy grail’ of killer whales

Encounter marks farthest south Type D orcas have been spotted

Victoria marine mammal scientist Josh McInnes has seen his fair share of killer whales over the past 16 years but was treated to a rare sight on a recent expedition.

While travelling with Lindblad Expditions/National Geographic, McInnes and other naturalists on the boat made their way through the treacherous Drake passage between South America and Antarctica. It was there, near Elephant Island, where they saw blows from spouts in the distance. While there are five types of killer whales in the southern hemisphere, the group came upon the rarest Type D killer whale.

“Initially nobody wanted to believe we had found them,” McInnes said.

Type D killer whales have a distinct, small eye patch which McInnes said he spotted on the whales when they came to the surface.

READ ALSO: Orca spotted in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

“I was like ‘oh my God that’s Type D’ and everybody went silent,” McInnes said. “We realized we found the holy grail … pretty much the rarest marine mammal.”

The elusive Type D killer whales have only been identified by researchers in recent years.

McInnes, who graduated from the University of Victoria and now works with the Marine Life Studies research organization in Monterey, California, said the encounter they had marks the farthest south these whales have been spotted.

He said in the past, the whales were seen near fishing boats as they stole fish to eat. This time around, they were in open water and even intermingling with fin whales, not showing signs of aggression or even hunting them.

READ ALSO: Southern resident orcas spotted off the coast of California

“It might indicate they are fish eaters more so than anything else, just because they were feeding alongside fin whales,” McInnes said. “Finding Type D killer whales in areas where no boats are is a goldmine because we’re seeing their natural behaviour.”

Due to the differences between Type D and other killer whales, McInnes said they could become a new species in the next five to 10 years.

While on the three-week expedition, McInnes said the crew managed to see four of the five ecotypes of whales in the southern hemisphere – Type A, Type B1, Type B2 and Type D. McInnes will be leaving for another expedition to Baja California on Jan. 9 and will head back to Antarctica at the end of the month.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

During his three week expedition, Victoria researcher Josh McInnes and other naturalists on the same boat spotted four of the five ecotypes of killer whales in the southern hemisphere. (Courtesy of Josh McInnes)

Just Posted

Missing toddler wandered for three hours in Beaverdell area before being found

The two-year-old boy was found safe by his uncle on Beaver Creek Road on Aug. 12

Missing toddler found safe near Beaverdell

The child had been missing in the Clark Lake area for more than two hours

Deer attack brings light back to controversial issue

The June 15 attack left Pinaar the service dog with multiple injuries

Injured animal highlights need to local woman for rehabilitation services

Christina Abbott ended up having the baby skunk put down due to the lack a nearby facility

‘Health First’ leads planning for SD51 re-opening.

The province wants final plans by Aug. 26

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Large missing python found ssssafe in Victoria after being on the lam for weeks

The snake was located more than six kilometres from where it went missing

B.C. announces multi-year plan to double treatment beds for youth with addiction

This will bring the total number of new beds specific to those 12 to 24 years old to 247 province-wide

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Wedding party bear sprayed at Okanagan campsite irks locals

Latest criminal activity at the Meadows leaves locals frustrated

Most Read