Gulf of Mexico – To call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience may be too generous because most people will never have an encounter like a group of Texas anglers did this week.
Not only did they see a huge pod of orca whales swimming in the Texas gulf, but some of those orcas swam right up to the boat to check them out.
“It was the most incredible thing I have witnessed on the water,” said boat captain Sam Hardeman.
Hardeman works for Galveston Party Boats and had taken a group out to fish for tuna. The ship was returning to shore and was about 120-130 miles offshore of Galveston in an area called the East Breaks when Hardeman slowed the boat down to get a better look at what he first thought were pilot whales, a species that he sees from time to time in the gulf.
“I could see the mist coming off their blowholes for about 1/4 mile stretch. As soon as I slowed the boat down, a group of them came right over to us, and I saw the unmistakable dorsal fin. We woke the customers up and they were in awe just like us,” Hardeman said.
Hardeman said the encounter lasted about 30 minutes until the group of orcas got bored and swam back to join their pod.
“We were all in disbelief at what we had seen. I don’t personally know anyone else who has seen an orca in the gulf,” Hardeman said.
Orcas do live in the Texas Gulf but are rarely sighted.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, there could be as many as 500 orcas that live in the Gulf of Mexico. They feed on tuna and even dolphins in the deep water far from land.
Texas Tech’s Natural Science Research Laboratory said sightings have increased in recent years.
Hardeman started his career 17 years ago in Alaska and has been working on offshore fishing boats in the Texas gulf for about 10 years. He has seen some pretty cool things in his career, but never orcas.
Until now, his most spectacular wildlife encounter was with an oceanic sunfish that he estimates weighed around 800 pounds. It swam up to his boat for a closer look. But even that doesn’t compare to the orca experience.
Hardeman said he’s happy he can share the video of his orca encounter so others can enjoy it too.
You can watch Hardeman’s video in the video player at the top of this article.