Diver Finds a Fierce Orca and Notices a Damaged Fin
As you might have guessed by the name “killer whale,” orcas have a pretty fierce reputation. Part of that is justified. For example, orcas have been known to harm and even kill some animal trainers at various maritime parks around the world.
So, what happens when an experienced diver finds an orca in the wild? For Julian Dunggio, that answer only came after he noticed the orca’s fin was damaged.
A Rough Start
Julian held a steady gaze. His eyes looked into some pretty rough waters, and the wind wasn’t much of a help either – it blew cold on his neck. Near the surface, he could see dark shadows that seemed to glisten. It was almost like something was fighting a huge battle.
The wind picked up, and it was clear that a storm was getting ready to blast the open sea. Julian’s stomach tightened. There wasn’t much else to do, however, so he took a deep breath and jumped in.
An Unidentified Object
For some unknown reason, the boat was unable to move. So, it rocked side to side as rain pelted the surface. As if to add to the uneasiness, an odd sound was coming from the bottom of the boat – was it a shark or an engine problem?
Then, all of sudden, a fisherman saw a huge something floating only a few feet away. “Come back!” they tried to shout to Julain. It was no use, however, because Julian was out of earshot, way down below the surface.
Meet Julian Dunggio
The oceans around Indonesia are home to everything from whale sharks to pilot whales, alongside countless other sea creatures that have yet to be properly classified. Although this might scare some people away from ever getting in the sea, it did the exact opposite for Julian Dunngio.
He loved the ocean. As an experienced diver in the Gorontalo region of Indonesia, he jumped at the opportunity to work aboard boats giving tours and fishing trips to locals and tourists alike.
Best Job Ever
For someone in love with the sea, getting paid to share that love with others was, for Julian, the best job ever. Nearly every day, he got to take tourists out into the wide open ocean and guide them in explorations of marine life.
Being so close to all the wonderful creatures of the sea was profoundly calming for Julian. It kept him centered. So, when he hopped onboard to join a fishing expedition one day, he did so in good spirits. Little did he know his life would change forever.
As he’d done many times before, Julian began his day helping the crew make sure they had all the equipment they needed. Soon after, the boat left the dock on what was supposed to be a clear and sunny day.
It quickly became apparent, however, that the weather forecast was dead wrong. Looking overhead, Julian and the others saw a large group of dark clouds rising over the horizon. They all gave a collective sigh of annoyance as they silently cursed the weather app’s failed predictions.
A Strange Noise
Although Julian came prepared with some rain gear, he was the only one who had. Rather than rag on them for forgetting, it was decided that the crew would turn around and head back to shore. The fishing expedition would have to be called off.
While turning around, however, a shape in the water caught Julian’s eye. He squinted to see further, and then heard a piercing noise coming from right under the boat. Everyone else heard it as well.
Something In The Way
Walking to the deck’s edge to catch a closer look, Julian grabbed tight to the handles and looked into the water ahead. Although he got a slightly better view, it was still unclear what the large shape in the water really was.
Then, it moved. Julian immediately knew it wasn’t some kind of discarded machine or garbage – it was a sea creature. Furthermore, it was a creature with slow but powerful movements that brought their ship to a halt. Julian’s heart pounded inside his chest.
An Impulsive Need
With the slow-moving creature in front and the rain beginning to cease, an impulsive need popped into Julian’s mind – and he chose to follow it. He grabbed his wetsuit from the equipment room and quickly put it on.
Would he discover a new creature? The thought courses through Julian’s mind as he double-checks his tank, snorkel, mask, and more. Before anyone could stop him, Julian followed that curiosity to its logical end: the ocean. He dived right in to investigate.
A harrowing sight
Moments after Julian jumped into the deep blue sea, a fisherman onboard spotted an uncomfortable sight: that of a fin. Furthermore, that fin was circling right around the boat. He felt a tightening of the stomach as he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Julian!”
By that time, however, Julian was already a few meters deep. Oblivious to the potential danger above, he was focused on unraveling the mystery below. As he swam closer to the murky mass, he tried to stay calm. Then, he let out a gasp.
That gasp was directed at the 20-foot-long orca whale right in front of him. Also known as the “killer whale” (which tells you about all you need to know), orcas have been known to maim and even kill their handlers at SeaWorld and other marine parks.
Understandably, Julian froze. He rethought where he was and what he was doing. Orcas were not only dangerous, but they were also extremely dangerous – especially when they were threatened. When thinking of his next move, Julian caught a glimpse of the orca’s dorsal fin.
Julian immediately realized that something was terribly wrong with the orca’s dorsal fin. Alongside some brutal-looking dents, there were a whole bunch of odd shapes carved into the orca’s skin. What was going on?
Julian swam closer to get some answers. It was hard, though. With marks like that on such a powerful creature, Julian knew that something more dangerous than a killer whale was nearby. His fight-or-flight instincts told him to flee by swimming as far and as fast away as possible.
But then Julian realized something that stopped him in his tracks: namely, the reason why the orca was so slow moving. As he looked closer at the mangled dorsal fin, he saw that the orca’s entire body was trapped in fishing lines.
The poor orca could hardly move, and this was clearly putting it under a (pardon the pun) boatload of stress. So, Julian jumped into rescue mode. He latched onto one of the fishing lines and tried to untangle it. The killer whale snapped its jaw in retaliation.
Thrashing back and forth
Julian moved away as fast as he could, just in time to not have his hand be the orca’s next meal. Although he was at a (relatively) safe distance, the orca kept thrashing back and forth, trying to scare Julian the Intruder away.
When backing off, Julian noticed that the orca wasn’t the only thing moving back and forth – the boat was too! He swam to the surface to see what was going on. “Julian!” they shouted, excited to see him safe. However, danger was right around the corner.
The Storm Returns
The rain was pelting down much faster and harder than before. It’s almost like it left for a short time, only to come back with a vengeance. Furthermore, the rain affected the waves – they were getting far more threatening.
Things were getting serious, and the boat risked capsizing with these monstrous waves. In such a tiny vessel, they were unlikely to make it out of a storm this size, so they wanted to get back to land as soon as possible.
Enlisting Some Help
Before they could go, however, Julian knew he wanted to free the orca stuck below. He also knew that the project was too big for him alone, so he asked the others onboard for some help. Understandably, they weren’t too enthused about hanging out with a killer whale.
Then, three hands went up, and three volunteers stepped forward. Julian told them to go grab some knives and come back. Although slightly confused, they followed his directions and came back to see what step #2 would be.
Step #2 was simple enough: release the orca. The reason the boat couldn’t get to shore in time to avoid the storm was that the orca was trapped in its fishing line. So, Julian and the others had to work together to safely free the stressed-out orca.
Everyone jumped in the water and swam toward the orca. By now, the whale had already thrashed for a while, so it was visibly exhausted. This was great news for the rescue crew because the orca was far less threatening.
Terror and Awe
Still, the crew swam with extreme caution because they didn’t want to spook the killer whale. Julian did the same, but he also paid close attention to the orca’s eyes, which filled him with a sense of awe as well as terror.
The crew grabbed some of the fishing lines and began to untangle them slowly. It was delicate work, and the orca wasn’t a cooperative patient. Instead, it was furiously blowing water everywhere to try and scare the crew. Although they stayed, it was hard to see clearly.
Julian knew he and the crew were in danger. Although from their point of view, they were helping the orca, the orca wasn’t seeing it the same way. Unfortunately, that built up stress in the orca, and stressed orcas are dangerous and unpredictable.
Furthermore, the storm that pushed them to call it a day was getting worse. The winds picked up, and the waves got choppy. In an attempt to lower the orca’s stress, Julian reached his hand out in a risky but necessary gesture.
A Comforting Gesture
Julian decided to reach out his hand because he felt the need to communicate, somehow, with the giant sea creature. Since words were meaningless, he decided to go for a nonverbal way of saying, “everything’s fine – you can relax.”
That came in the form of petting the orca’s body. While doing that, Julian kept staring into the orca’s terrifying but awe-inspiring eyes to make it clear that he and the crew weren’t there to hurt the orca. Instead, they were there to help.
Since petting the orca’s body seemed to have an immediate calming effect, Julian continued doing it. In addition, he spoke calming words to the orca despite the fact they didn’t share a mutual language. Remarkably, the orca became more relaxed.
At one point, the previously thrashing orca surprised everyone by becoming completely still. Julian noticed the orca’s eyes soften, relax, and blink. Clearly, Julian had an immensely calming effect on the stressed orca. Well, at least that’s what he thought at first.
The Orca’s Free
During this entire time, the other men in the crew were diligently untangling the fishing lines that trapped the orca’s body. The delicate operation felt like it took forever, but eventually, it came to an end. The orca’s body was free.
Once free, two of the crew immediately swam as fast as they could toward the boat – they were taking no chances with such a deadly creature nearby. Julian and another man, however, waited around to see what the orca would do.
The Orca Doesn’t Move
After waiting a bit, nothing momentous happened, so Julian and the other guy decided to swim back to the surface. A few feet from safety, Julian decided to take a look back. He saw that the orca didn’t move at all.
The fishing line was untangled, so why wasn’t the orca swimming away? The question stopped Julian in his tracks. Although he knew the crew needed to get back on shore before the storm ruined the boat, he also knew that he wanted the orca to swim away freely.
Between the Boat and the Sea
Julian felt a strange connection with the killer whale trapped beneath the fishing boat. This made it difficult for him to simply climb aboard and leave the orca behind. He was stuck, both literally and figuratively, between the boat and the sea.
On the boat were all the crew members who helped Julian free the orca. They all wanted to get out of the storm as soon as possible. In the sea was the orca itself, which Julian felt an overwhelming connection to. He couldn’t leave the orca behind.
One More Attempt
So, when Julian made it to the surface, he was hesitant to simply get on board and be done with it. The crew had no such hesitations – with the trapped orca out of the way, they wanted to go full steam ahead until they made it to the shore.
Julian made the hard decision to go back into the water. So, after grabbing a giant stick from the stern of the boat, he swam to the orca and nudged it a bit.
The nudge was very soft because Julian didn’t want to harm the already hurt and stressed orca. After a few gentle pushes, Julian’s eyes darted to the orca’s tail, and he saw it move back and forth.
That little tail swing eventually grew large enough that the orca’s entire body began to sway back and forth. Then, it swam off. Julian was overwhelmed with joy as he made his way back to the surface and onto the boat. But would the boat make it back to shore on time?
Bravery and Strategy
Shortly after Julian safely made it back on board, the crew tightened everything down and zipped off to shore. Luckily, they made it back to land before the full ferocity of the storm hit the island.
Julian managed to demonstrate that all it takes is a little bravery and strategic thinking to overcome tough situations. For Julian, bravery meant diving right up to the orca, and strategic thinking was all about enlisting the help of the crew to free the trapped creature.
The tale of the trapped orca quickly spread far beyond the confines of Julian, Anshar Rahman (the boat’s owners), and the fishing crew. Local media came to the dock to ask what happened and why the crew did what they did.
Rahman summed up their motivations succinctly, saying that killing a strange animal in the sea would result in bad luck for the killer and his family. “This is our ancestor’s message,” Rahman repeated. That message would soon be heard by many more people.
Unbeknownst to Julian, someone onboard was filming the daring orca rescue as it took place. That video was then posted online, liked by the group Whale Stranding Indonesia, and reposted on their popular Facebook page. Viral fame came soon thereafter.
The group explained how the fisherman made the difficult decision to rip their fishing net – which had about two tonnes of fish inside – in order to ensure the orca’s rescue. People from all over praised the brave divers. Julian used the extra attention to share a message he believed in.
A New Killer Reputation
Basically, Julian urged people to rethink their received ideas about orcas. Although they have a dangerous reputation – the whole being called a “killer whale” thing – that reputation isn’t always deserved. Sometimes it is, but other times they’re simply majestic creatures out on the sea.
Not only are they majestic and awe-inspiring, but they’re also fast swimmers with an average speed of 56 km per hour! On top of that, people might be surprised to learn that orcas are also part of the dolphin family.
The fact that orcas belong to the dolphin family also means that they are mammals (marine mammals, to be more specific). Another important member of the mammal family is our species – humans. Although it may not seem like orcas and humans have much in common beyond being mammals, they do.
For example, scientists using drones to record orca behavior found something surprising: they seem to have “close friendships.” Not only do they prefer certain orcas over others, but the ones they choose are usually also the same sex and age as them.