False Killer Whales Sighted In Hawaii As One ‘Smiles’ For the Camera

A tour boat in Hawaii recently managed to capture unusual underwater footage of a group of false killer whales, including the image of one of the cetaceans seemingly smiling for the cameras.

A Wild Side Specialty Tours expedition encountered the pod of false killer whales off West Oahu, according to Grind TV. The boat’s crew submerged a camera to document the whales’ behavior, prompting the animals to investigate the vessel further.

“They weren’t really friendly at first, but then we had seen some movement a little further out in deeper water, so about 1,500 feet, we came across these two and they were quite interested in the boat and stayed with us and tried to eat my GoPro,” Wild Side Specialty Tours’ Elizabeth Hartford recalled.

Hartford went on to say that the encounter with the false killer whales (thought to be a mother and calf), was one of the closest that she had ever experienced, and proved to be exhilarating for all aboard the vessel. The whales belong to an insular pod which lives in Hawaiian waters and does not leave, according to KHON. This has caused the whales to become their own distinct population, much like several pods of killer whales which live along the Pacific coast of the United States.

Though the animals are known as false killer whales, they are in fact not truly whales. Instead, they belong to the dolphin family, and the species is considered endangered. Fewer than 200 of the whales are thought to currently exist in Hawaiian waters. Sightings of the animals are considered rare in and of themselves, but close encounters like the one recorded by the tour group are nothing short of extraordinary.

As the crew filmed, the two false killer whales managed to ham it up for the camera, chasing after the GoPro and vocalizing to one another. Early in the clip, one of the whales appears to be smiling at the camera, though the animal could simply be making a facial expression that falsely gives that impression.

The Hawaiian population of false killer whales does not migrate to other parts of the Pacific, and for that reason, they are genetically distinct from others of their species.

[Photo via YouTube/ Wild Side Tours]