Rare sighting of false killer whales off Hawaii; one seems to smile for camera

False killer whale appears to smile for the camera.

False killer whales investigated a tour boat in Hawaii recently and the crew captured mesmerizing underwater footage of the mysterious mammals, including one that seemed to be smiling for the camera.

The pod of false killer whales, which like orcas are members of the dolphin family, was encountered during a Wild Side Specialty Tours expedition off West Oahu. The mammals became curious about the submerged camera used to document their behavior.

“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,” Elizabeth Hartford, who works for Wild Side, told KHON. “This is probably one of the closet encounters I’ve had with them, and it was pretty exhilarating for me and everyone on board as well.”

The two hamming it up for the camera, and vocalizing to one another, are most likely a mom and calf, Hartford said.

False killer whale eyes the GoPro.

False killer whales are found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide. However, the 150 to 200 false killer whales that live around the main Hawaiian islands are considered insular, meaning the pod does not migrate to other parts of the Pacific, and is genetically distinct.

Hawaiian false killer whales are endangered and sightings are rare, and close encounters such as that enjoyed by the Wild Side Specialty Tours group are extraordinary.

The one mammal appears to be smiling, but it could be just a facial expression that resembles a smile.

Either way, the imagery is undoubtedly generating plenty of smiles among viewers.

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