As a group of Lebanese fishermen was going about their daily routine in the sea, they came across a creature that had never been seen in Lebanese waters.
As the smiley black-and-white orca breached near their boat, one of the fishermen, in awe, managed to record the action and posted the now-viral video on Facebook.
As the video showed, the killer whale had been swimming close to the boat off the coast of Khalde; it must have been driven towards the fishermen out of curiosity. After all, orcas are some of the most intelligent mammals in the animal kingdom.
What really sparks curiosity, however, is this animal’s presence in Lebanese waters.
These apex predators are typically found in the oceans – most commonly near colder regions like Antarctica, Iceland, Norway, and Pacific North America – and so it’s extremely rare to come across one in the Mediterranean Sea.
Not only that, but orcas are very social animals; they often live, hunt, and travel in groups called pods, which usually consist of up to 40 members per pod. Therefore, this lonely killer whale may have lost its way and ended up in Lebanon by mistake.
And this loner, as it turns out, is well-known by killer whale aficionados and researchers, and even has a name: Riptide (SN113).
Interestingly, Riptide was last spotted not that long ago, on December 27, 2019, in the Strait of Messina (near Italy), swimming along in a pod of 3 other orcas.
The Director of the Lebanese Diving Center, Youssef El-Jundi, commented on the encounter, telling the news website Bintjbeil: “We confirm that it is an orca whale, but we do not confirm the validity of the location of the video nor deny it, because this specific whale [typically] only appears in very cold water.”
Although they’re called killer whales, orcas are not actually whales; they belong to the oceanic dolphin family, of which they are the largest members.
Ancient sailors gave orcas the name ‘whale killers’ upon observing groups of orcas hunting and preying on larger whale species; the term was flipped around later on for easier pronunciation.