A woman was swimming on 4 December 2018 at Hahei Beach on the Coromandel peninsular, New Zealand. Then a pod of orcas (killer whales) swam up to her (probably a mother and two calves), and circled her. They kept swimming around her while she was headed to the shore. Especially the mother swam really close to her. A man named Dylan Brayshaw captured the full scene from a drone. The result is the amazing drone footage below.
Despite their name, “killer whales” or orcas (scientific name: Orcinus orca) are not considered a threat to humans. Although these amazing and very intelligent animals are capable of taking down much larger and stronger prey than humans (a human versus an orca is like a chicken versus a lion) they have never been known to kill a human. There were known attacks (none of them were fatal), yes, but they are extremely rare. And these attacks occurred most probably the orca mistook the human for a seal.
In one instance, killer whales tried to tip ice floes on which a dog team and photographer of the Terra Nova Expedition were standing. The sled dogs’ barking is speculated to have sounded enough like seal calls to trigger the killer whale’s hunting curiosity.
In the 1970s, a surfer in California was bitten, and in 2005, a boy in Alaska who was splashing in a region frequented by harbor seals was bumped by a killer whale that apparently misidentified him as prey.
There have been cases of captive orcas killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks.