By Katy Gill and David Aspinall
This amazed diver counted himself fortunate that it was a nearby stingray and not him that a giant orca decided to tail slap – an amazing and playful move that was captured on camera.
The orca, just feet away from underwater photographer Jorge Hauser, swam out of the dark depths and smashed the unsuspecting ray with its tail before continuing to play with the creature as somewhat of a sport.
Jorge Hauser was left in awe after capturing the once-in-a-lifetime experience during a dive in the Sea of Cortez, Gulf Of California, USA, on June 10.
The sound of the orca’s whistles echo throughout, moments before swimming out of the blue shadows and at first appearing to swim calmly past the diver and stingray.
Seconds letter, though, one orca aggressively swung its tail, striking the ray and leaving it unconscious and disorientated.
The 12,000-pounds (six tonne) wild whales are known to play with smaller marine animals for fun, and for the next hour they taunted the stingray by intimidatingly swimming circles around it.
Jorge, 33, said: “I had a feeling something interesting could happen, as the orcas had been playing with the ray for a while, coming and going.
“I’m typically a photographer, but I luckily decided to switch to video and get close to the ray.
“At first, the orcas were paying little attention to us – they would briefly come to check us out and then leave, but when they saw the ray, the game changed.
“It felt like they were trying to show us what they were doing, switching between interacting with the ray and then showing off for us, like they were trying to say, ‘Mom, look at us!’
“After the first smack, the poor stingray was left disorientated and without any strength to swim away – it was really sad but he appeared to just float there waiting for another tail slap.”
“We were as close as it gets to the orca.”
Jorge, the Pelagic Fleet owner and CEO, has been visiting this spot for over seven years in the hope to witness these orcas in action, flying in twice a month and crossing his fingers to encounter something groundbreaking.
Often, however, the photographer has missed them by only a couple of days.
A veteran diver of 18 years, Jorge said: “This interaction and the behavior I witnessed was without a doubt the most incredible underwater experience of my life.
“I have photographed great white sharks, saltwater crocodiles and even free anacondas, but this experience was without a doubt the most incredible underwater experience of my life.
“My underwater photography friends hate me a little bit after being able to capture this on footage.
or”I think we all can agree that it was one of the most amazing things anyone can witness in the open ocean.”