This screenshot from a video posted by Salty Lady Seafood Co. shows an orca swimming close to a boat. "I thought for sure it would splash us with its tail or nose the skiff," the company said in a social media post. "It was just checking us out though. Fun end to a hard day of work at the farm." (Screenshot)

A whale of a tale

Salty Lady Seafoods crew enjoy an unexpected visit.

A routine trip to her oyster farm turned into a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with an orca for Meta Mesdag, owner of Salty Lady Seafood Co.

“We were headed back to Yankee Cove and between there and Sunshine Cove at about 1:30 on Tuesday when we spotted a pod of orcas in the distance,” Mesdag told the Juneau Empire.“They were well off in the distance, and I stopped really shy of them. We wanted to watch them go past,” she said.

As she moved the engine to idle, two adult orcas made a 90-degree turn and headed straight for her boat, which was packed with passengers and equipment.

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“They came straight at us,” she said. “I had no idea what they were going to do. They were clearly very curious.”

To her surprise, one orca swam right up next to them, surfaced, and pulled its tail out of the water, about six inches from one of the boat’s passengers.

“A lot was going through my head,” she said, noting that the entire episode lasted about two minutes. “I’ve never had an encounter before. I’m wondering if it’s going to push the boat. It felt like it was playing chicken with us. I thought it could pull someone into the water. I know they aren’t aggressive, so I thought maybe it was just going to splash us.”

After that, the pod, which she estimates included six adults and a calf, swam off.

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“They circled us and then carried off into the sunset,” she said. “It was a really exciting and fun end to our day. It was incredible. It’s only a three-mile run back and forth to the farm. If we had timed it differently, we would have missed it,” she said.

Orcas, also called killer whales, are found in all the world’s oceans, but they are most abundant in colder waters such as those around Southeast Alaska, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations website.

According to the site, an adult orca can grow up to 32 feet long and weigh up to 11 tons.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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