You’ve Never Seen Killer Whales Do This Before

03/02/2012

Frozen Planet marks the first complete filming of killer whale “wave wash” behavior, where orcas cooperate to wash seals off of ice floes. Scientists consider what you’re about to see the most complex team hunting behavior ever filmed or recorded in the natural world. This has never been seen before, until now. 

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To capture this footage, Frozen Planet film crews sailed for five days across the planet’s roughest seas off the coast of Antarctica. Hoping to film at least one instance of killer whale “wave washing” technique, they ended up filming 22 separate team hunts. 

Wave-washing killer whales were first observed by early Antarctic explorers 100 years ago. It wasn’t until the early 1970′s that the behavior was first documented by scientists. 

“It wasn’t seen again for about 30 years,” explains Robert Pitman, a scientific adviser on Frozen Planet. “Then a tour boat saw it and [a tourist took] some home video.” 

This inspired Discovery Channel and the BBC to send a film crew out to capture what Pitman later described as “some of the most amazing wildlife footage ever taken.” 

The results of this shoot have so far spawned three scientific papers.

Frozen Planet — from the co-producers of Planet Earth and Life.

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