Yachtie's killer whale escort to Mooloolaba
A YACHTIE has described how his boat was "shadowed" by a pod of killer whales off the Sunshine Coast.
Mike Middleton was sailing from Double Island Point to Mooloolaba on Sunday when the killer whales employed his 50-foot sloop in their hunting games.
Mr Middleton said about eight or nine killer whales stayed close on one side of the boat while some humpbacks swam between the vessel and the shore.
After speaking with a friend who monitors whale movements, he believes the killer whales were in the area picking off straggling humpback whales heading south at the end of the season.
"They were using the hull of my 50-foot yacht as a barrier," he said.
Mr Middleton, a seasoned wildlife cameraman who was on his way back to the coast after three months filming on the Great Barrier Reef for nature programs, said the killer whales appeared to be "very agitated and moving around a lot - they were on the hunt".
Male killer whales have a more upright, pointed fin than the females leading Mr Middleton to believe there was at least one male within the pod.
He described the sailing with the orcas alongside as "pretty scaring and intimidating" for a while.
"I was on my own and these things have jumped up and bitten and got people before," he said.
Mr Middleton parted company with the whales about 4.30pm when he set towards the outside of Old Woman Island.
He believes that with the sun lower in the sky, playing with shadows on the water, they then made a move on the humpbacks, which may have been making towards the shallower water of the Arkwright Shoal to rest.
"It was really interesting how they were shadowing the boat, using the boat as a buffer, keeping the element of surprise up there until they got to a point where the light was just right," he said.
Coolum Beach resident Helen Bradshaw was having a wine at Stumers Creek with a friend when she noticed splashing offshore by whales which looked different to the humpbacks she is used to seeing.
"I see whales pretty much every day and remember commenting to my friend that they were really different but it didn't occur to me that they might be killer whales. They were smooth and more streamlined - there was definitely something different about them," she said.
Mr Middleton pondered whether killer whales had been responsible for the death of a humpback off the southern tip of Fraser Island.
He said he was privileged to witness the whales from a box seat.
"It was really nature at its best. Stunning."