KETCHIKAN — Whale researchers say it was highly unusual for a killer whale to bump a 12-year-old boy splashing in shallow water near Ketchikan.
Ellis Miller found himself face-to-face with an orca charging at him in 4 feet of water Saturday in Helm Bay. The animal, estimated to be more than 25 feet long, bumped but did not bite him.
"I looked underwater and there was this huge head right in front of me," Ellis told the Ketchikan Daily News.
Biologists said whale may have been curious or it may have aborted an attack.
"If it had wanted to take him, it would have," said Gary Freitag, volunteer coordinator with the National Marine Fisheries Service's Marine Mammal Stranded Network.
"I suspect that the whale that approached thought he was a harbor seal splashing," said John Ford, a researcher of killer whales with the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans' Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
quote: I've been fascinated and loved them since the first time I saw the 1977 classic "Orca"
I lived in Ketchikan for a while back in the 80's. Going out and watching the Killers and humpbacks was one of my favorite things to do. Seeing them out in the wild is something truly awesome.