The boat circled a pod of killer whales feeding peacefully on fish. The crew had already pursued several different whale groups over the past few days with no success. After 10 failed capture attempts, the hunters knew their targets weren’t easy prey. So this time, the crew was patient and kept circling to lull the animals into complacency.
When the whales seemed calm enough, the crew flung the encircling nets, and quickly realized how many animals they faced: about 20 whales, adults and calves, frantically swam around inside the enclosure. Within minutes, the animals discovered escape routes and rushed to break free.
“The adults moved toward the stern and began to escape over the net. They did it in an amazing way: a killer whale would come right up to the floats, and then roll over its back, upside down,” a crew member later recalled, in a written account of the capture. “At the same time, the young animals dashed to the ship’s bow and tried to force through [any gaps].”
The net emptied fast, but the hunters lucked out. One youngster’s pectoral fin got stuck between a float and the steel rope at the top of the net. The divers on deck, paid to jump into the water and help lift captured animals onto the boat, were scared by the killer whale’s might; they froze until other crew members reportedly forced them into action. When the nets lifted, another body appeared—a small one. Tangled deep down in the net, the calf had died. “Being busy with the first one, we didn’t notice the other one and it drowned,” the crew member said. They cut the net and dumped the body into the ocean. Read Full Story in Smithsonian.