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Killer whales chase down blue whale in rare drone footage

A group of orca whales harrassing a blue whale was caught by a drone camera and posted by scientists who study the whales off the Northern California coast.

Monterey Bay Whale Watch via Facebook

A rare sight was captured by a drone camera off the coast of Northern California a few weeks ago. The video shows a group of killer whales streaking through the glassy blue water chasing down a solitary blue whale.

The video of the pursuit was posted by Monterey Bay Whale Watch on their Facebook page on May 18.

Killer whales, also called orcas, are known to attack other ocean-dwelling animals including sea lions, squid, octopuses, sea turtles, sharks, rays, fish and sea birds. They weigh up to 6 tons and can grow as long as a school bus, and can even take down other whales.

But orcas don't typically go after adult blue whales which, according to a recent National Georgraphic article that highlighted the killer whales stalking and striking the blue whale, the planet's largest species, which can reach up to a hundred feet long and weigh close to 200 tons.

May 18: Drone of Killer Whales Harassing a Blue Whale!

5/18: Killer Whales Harass a Blue Whale captured from our drone! While watching Emma's family group they suddenly came across a Blue Whale in their path! Although Humpbacks stand up to Killer Whales and trumpet blow at them, Blue Whales are easily startled by Killer Whales, and flee the scene! If you watch closely in the second clip you can see the adult Blue Whale porpoising away, swimming at full speed out of the water on the other side of our boat in the upper left hand corner. Video by Anoorag Saxena.

Posted by Monterey Bay Whale Watch on Thursday, May 18, 2017

Monterey Bay Whale Watch, a whale-watching tour business, knows the orca pod that chased down the blue whale. 

"While watching Emma's family group they suddenly came across a Blue Whale in their path! Although Humpbacks stand up to Killer Whales and trumpet blow at them, Blue Whales are easily startled by Killer Whales, and flee the scene!" they wrote on their Facebook page along with the video post.

The blue whale was seen "porpoising away, swimming at full speed out of the water," the post said.

The group has only seen one previous interaction between blue whales and orca whales in Monterey Bay.

"That involved a juvenile blue whale, who did a tail throw to loosen the grip of a killer whale, and then sped off under water (was not pursued). Some of our blue whales do have killer whale tooth rakes on them, especially on their flukes, pectoral flippers, and dorsal fins," the Facebook post said.

Marine biologist Nancy Black, who runs the whale-watching outfit and has been studying the habits of whales in the area for 25 years, witnessed the event from the deck of a nearby boat. Black told National Geographic that the chase probably wasn't an attempt to take down the blue whale for dinner. 

"They were probably doing it for the heck of it," Black said. "They play with [whales] like cats play with their prey. They are very playful and social."

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