294: Wave Washing

294: Wave Washing

Brain Junk
Brain Junk
294: Wave Washing

Are you team killer whale or team crab eating seal? We’re cheering for both… Watch the movies in the show notes if you dare. There’s no blood and guts but the hunting style of the B1 pod is still a complete horror show.

image: AlKalenski from pixabay, Antarctic seal and iceberg

Show Notes:

Lindblad Expedition with national Geographic movie

More National Geographic

Research Gate diagrams of wave washing

CBS 8 San Diego, killer whales attacking boats in Spain

We mentions sharks hunting seals in a very sneaky way: Marine Dynamics Shark and Whale Tours

Top 10 animals that kill people. Hippos are top of the list


[00:00:03] Speaker A: Welcome to Brain Junk. I’m Amy Barton.

[00:00:05] Speaker B: And I’m Trace Kerr. And today is everything you never knew you wanted to know about wave washing.

[00:00:13] Speaker A: Um, is this going a laundry direction or are we tumbling rocks?

[00:00:18] Speaker B: I know. You’re like, it’s a wave. Why do we need to clean it? We’re not talking about that.

[00:00:23] Speaker A: That’s good.

[00:00:24] Speaker B: This is the western Antarctic Peninsula. We’re going cold. We’re going, you know, a big sea with lots of little chunks of ice floating on it.

[00:00:33] Speaker A: No, thank you.

[00:00:34] Speaker B: Crab eater and Waddell seals versus killer whales. This one is not for the faint of heart.

[00:00:41] Speaker A: Ooh, this sounds like the Oatmeal is doing a cartoon.

[00:00:46] Speaker B: Who would win versus. Okay, so they look like the cute harbor seals you see in reels or TikToks, the ones where they’re in the zoo. They got their cute little faces. They’re about 600 pounds. Like I said, miles and miles of ice chunks floating on water ten to 20ft across. Crab eater seals or the Waddell seals, they rest on this ice. I would not want to lay on a giant floating ice cube like a crouton. But they’re blubbery. They can do it. Okay.

[00:01:17] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:01:17] Speaker B: I’ve sent you a video.

[00:01:22] Speaker A: Okay. We’re going to have a nice commercial first.

[00:01:26] Speaker B: Yeah, I know. And what Amy’s going to be watching is how these killer whales hunt.

[00:01:32] Speaker A: Oh, I can skip the ad now.

[00:01:34] Speaker B: Yeah. And you’re going to have a couple of seconds of preamble and then you’ll.

[00:01:39] Speaker A: See this is the sort of place that has those beautiful big ice structures, too, that have, like, holes through them. Okay. And I’m watching an angry seal get sassy at some orcas. Okay.

Four orcas just swam under a chunk of ice and swamped the seal off of it. Yeah.

[00:01:59] Speaker B: That is wave washing.

[00:02:02] Speaker A: Is this what they also do to the boats now? This is a coordinated effort. That looks like a horror movie. Y’all.

[00:02:10] Speaker B: Yeah. So it’s four of them. They’re in a line. They come out underneath, like the boat that’s watching.

[00:02:16] Speaker A: That’s horrifying.

[00:02:17] Speaker B: And they swim straight at the ice and at the last second they dive down and that diving flips water, and I mean, like a ton of water over the top of this chunk of ice. They’re trying to wash the seal off into the water so that they can eat it.

[00:02:33] Speaker A: You have never seen a seal move so fast either. No. And that is why that seal is making that sassy face. Oh, my gosh. And it didn’t work. And so now they’re coming along and, like, bumping the ice that he’s on. This guy got back on.

I don’t think I could bear it if I had to see him get eaten. So I’m hoping that that’s not happening here. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.

[00:02:54] Speaker A: I mean, I know sometimes it does, but I’m hoping this little seal triumphs.

[00:02:58] Speaker B: Yeah. No, and they were like, they named him Kevin. The people on the boat. Now, I will tell you, I have Amy watching without her volume on. It’s kind of disturbing because with the audio, and this will be in the show notes, the people on the boat sound like they’re at a sporting event.

[00:03:14] Speaker A: I hope they’re cheering for the seal.

[00:03:15] Speaker B: Well, they’re cheering for the seal. They’re cheering for the orcas. People don’t quite know who to cheer.

[00:03:20] Speaker A: Know?

[00:03:21] Speaker B: And it’ll be like, oh, no.

[00:03:22] Speaker A: And then I know because the orcas need to eat too.

[00:03:25] Speaker B: But the water washes over and they’re like, yeah. And they’re. Kevin.

[00:03:30] Speaker A: Kevin just got back out off of the. These orcas just attacked. Maybe they’re swimming away. So he sees his window and he’s making a break for a bigger chunk of ice. They just flashed on, smiling, horrified. Oh, and the label just came up for Kevin as the orca comes up and sasses it.

[00:03:51] Speaker B: Yes.

[00:03:52] Speaker A: And dives back down. They’re definitely. Wow. Very high level of social interaction. That’s weird to see.

[00:04:01] Speaker B: That’s kind of the teamwork is disturbing.

[00:04:04] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:04:04] Speaker B: And this is the b one killer whale family. They label killer whale groups by letters. Like in Puget Sound, in the Salish sea, by Seattle. It’s J and K that are usually out there in the Antarctic. At the western Antarctic Peninsula, it’s the b one killer whale group. Approximately 100 killer whales are in the group. This is the only group of killer whales we know of that does this now.

[00:04:28] Speaker A: Are orcas killer whales? Did I say that right? Okay. Yeah. So this is a group of very smart whales that are innovating in different ways all around the world then, because we’re seeing them in other areas now, swamping boats and knocking boats around. Yeah, that’s creepy. I like to be an apex predator and not have things that can get me.

[00:04:50] Speaker B: And I’m going to use killer whales in this because. Yeah, their orcas are killer whales. A lot of scientists don’t use killer whale because they’re like, oh, it’s so mean. But in this instance, they literally are. They are, like, in team murder mode, working together to get these seals off of the ice. And here’s what’s even crazier, is that if the wave wash doesn’t work, like you said, they start bashing the ice to break it into smaller and smaller pieces.

[00:05:15] Speaker A: Yeah. If you’ve all seen that movie with Blake lively and she’s out in the ocean and she’s trapped and there’s a shark. Imagine that. With four sharks and she’s just more plump.

[00:05:27] Speaker B: Yeah.

[00:05:28] Speaker A: If you put the right music to this, it’s terrible.


[00:05:35] Speaker B: So you’ve got grandma, mom, daughters. They line up. Perfect line, really.

[00:05:41] Speaker A: It’s a family group.

[00:05:42] Speaker B: Yep. Family group. And they’re teaching each other how to do this. In fact, in the Kevin video that you watched, at one point, you can see they all go down, but the smallest one, probably the youngest one, rolls over as they go under. She’s waiting for that seal to come off of the ice to grab.

[00:06:03] Speaker A: I noticed that on one of them, she peeled into the group at the last minute, but I didn’t notice her peel off. But you’re proud. Yes. That little one was doing not always exactly what the big ones were.

[00:06:15] Speaker B: Yeah. And it might be because she’s learning. Also, I found this picture of three seals. They’re on the chunk of ice, and three, a killer whales, are doing what’s called spy hopping. They bring a lot of their head out of the water, and they are looking at the seals on the ice.

[00:06:31] Speaker A: And the seal is hissing at them like an angry cat.

[00:06:34] Speaker B: Yes, because the crab eater seals are very mean, and they are harder to hunt than the Waddell seals.

[00:06:41] Speaker A: So maybe we shouldn’t be cheering for Kevin.

[00:06:44] Speaker B: Well, I mean, no, we definitely have to. You have to cheer for Kevin because he’s overwhelmed. It’s not one on one in an alley. This is like he brought a knife to a gunfight. Kevin is not doing great.

And so you’ll see these killer whales, the b one family, they’re swimming along, the fin is above the water, and then they hop and they look. Can you imagine? You’re a seal. Three of these gals hop up, they look, they disappear, they swim away, and they come back in a line, straight line, 1234. And then.

[00:07:13] Speaker A: Boosh. And if the video, it’s probably clipped to a certain degree, but it looks like they make multiple passes.

[00:07:19] Speaker B: Oh, yeah. So here’s the thing.

[00:07:22] Speaker A: And the ice does get smaller every time. You’re going to be worried about Kevin by the end of this video.

[00:07:27] Speaker B: You all.

[00:07:28] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:07:28] Speaker B: So wildlife photographer is quoted in a National Geographic article saying that it usually only takes a few passes to catch a seal. But they watched a group that spent two to 3 hours.

[00:07:40] Speaker A: Oh, my goodness.

[00:07:41] Speaker B: 30 runs over and over and over and over. It’s rare for them not to get their seal.

[00:07:49] Speaker A: Oh, boy. There is a point at which Kevin makes a run for it and they do not really show what happens.

[00:07:55] Speaker B: Yeah. They’re like, Kevin got. I’m like, no, no. Kevin went underwater. We did not see what happened.

[00:08:01] Speaker A: That little baby one that was on the side. This is like Jurassic park. And the one runs out because the other one is hiding behind you.

[00:08:10] Speaker B: Yeah. Clever girl.

[00:08:12] Speaker A: So exactly. This is the aquatic version of that. Yeah.

[00:08:16] Speaker B: It’s terrifying. It’s terrifying.

[00:08:17] Speaker A: Yes.

[00:08:18] Speaker B: So one of the things that they’re researching is this group is slowly shrinking. The population is shrinking of seals or the whales? Yes, the whales.

[00:08:30] Speaker A: Okay.

[00:08:30] Speaker B: Because as climate warms, more seals are on land than on the ice. And so they’re wondering if b one the family group will adapt or continue to lose more of their population every year. And my first thought was, have you ever seen killer whales in Patagonia running themselves up on the beach to catch baby seals?

[00:08:50] Speaker A: No, but that sounds terrifying.


[00:08:54] Speaker B: And in that situation, the seals come on land, they breed. They have these giant nurseries of babies and mothers are going out and you see some females stay and they’re at the high tide mark.

[00:09:08] Speaker A: Yes.

[00:09:08] Speaker B: They’re vocalizing stay away from the water. And you see baby seals.

[00:09:13] Speaker A: Most of them stop dirping along. Yeah.

[00:09:16] Speaker B: Then there are some that are like, you’re not my mom. And they go into the water and they’re playing so much fun. And then these orcas practically beach themselves.

[00:09:25] Speaker A: They’re pretty sleek.

[00:09:26] Speaker B: They run up onto the beach. They’re barely in the water. Grab a seal and then you can see them like humping themselves back off of beach.

[00:09:35] Speaker A: Yes.

[00:09:35] Speaker B: So I don’t know. I think maybe even if the ice is gone, maybe one of the grandmothers will figure out that she could just run herself up on the beach.

[00:09:45] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:09:46] Speaker B: And then no one is safe.

[00:09:47] Speaker A: There is a group of sharks and it might be off the coast of Africa. And I think it’s penguins, but it might be seals. They live on this rock. And so the sharks just get in between them and their food source because they have to go into the water to get to their food source. And so they have to run the gauntlet to get to their food because they are the food too. So nature will find a way.

[00:10:11] Speaker B: She certainly will I will say that one of the things in the seal’s favor is humpback whales are in that area.

And humpback whales will interfere in hunts even if they are not being hunted.

[00:10:26] Speaker A: So, like, if they don’t think it’s sporting, they’ll jump in there.

[00:10:29] Speaker B: Well, because orcas, that’s one of their biggest predators is orcas will hunt humpback whale calves.

But even if they don’t have calves with them, and there was some footage and you see orcas and they’re lining up, they’re getting ready to make another run for another wave wash. And the humpbacks just kind of swim through, like, no, not today.

[00:10:51] Speaker A: That’s delightful. Yeah, I like that obstructionist behavior.

[00:10:57] Speaker B: And you can see the orcas, they kind of slow down and then everybody’s like, oh, man. And so off they go. And the seal lives to fish another day.

[00:11:05] Speaker A: Watching nature documentaries is a very up and down, like schizophrenic. Who do I root?

I really. The whales are amazing. That’s incredibly intelligent and it’s beautifully coordinated and really clever and they’re so persistent. But Kevin looks small and cute. He’s like the cat of the sea in this situation. Even though if you saw him on land, like, you go over to Seattle and you see the seals and you’re like, that is not cute.

[00:11:34] Speaker B: Well, that is a 600 pound. Yeah. And that’s why the audio of the people on the boat is rather disturbing, because they don’t know who to cheer for either.

[00:11:45] Speaker A: Yeah, somebody’s going to die.

[00:11:51] Speaker B: Yeah. So that’s b one. Don’t go to the Antarctic and lay on the ice.

[00:11:56] Speaker A: I was just going to ask again, like, now, where was this? Not that I’m planning to go on a cruise anytime soon.

So it’s the Antarctic, so I’m extremely unlikely to incidentally run into this. So that’s good.

[00:12:09] Speaker B: Yes, it is.

Unless the ones that are destroying boats figure out that they can just swamp the boats, because I think they’re ramming the boats.

[00:12:18] Speaker A: Not like, oh, they haven’t figured out this cool wave thing.

[00:12:21] Speaker B: Yeah, no, absolutely not. We’re in trouble if they do.

[00:12:24] Speaker A: Yeah, I feel like that’s only a matter of time where one of them accidentally dives at the last minute and then is like, that was excellent. Did you.

[00:12:33] Speaker B: Hey, that kayak disappeared completely.

[00:12:38] Speaker A: And look, the guy is down here now. It is snack time.

Yeah. Would they eat people if we ended up in the water?

[00:12:46] Speaker B: I know they haven’t yet.

[00:12:48] Speaker A: That’s merciful for us.

[00:12:49] Speaker B: It’s not like, know.

[00:12:51] Speaker A: Thanks.

[00:12:51] Speaker B: That’s a whole different story for another day.

[00:12:56] Speaker A: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite scenes in Jumanji, where one of the characters gets eaten by hippo. Oh, no.

Delightful in the new one.

On that happy note, of course, as you’re doing some gloomy winter day baking with your smart seeker in the kitchen, you can ask it to play Brainjunk podcasts while you make a nice treat for yourself. Unlike the orcas who are looking for a seal, treat can always find us on social media. We’re on Facebook and Instagram. Brain junk podcast. As you’re doing your baking, you could be having a lovely cup of tea in your brain junk mug. Maybe we’ll come up with an apron next. As long as I’m going with this kitchen and baking because we’re recording before the holidays. Yeah.

[00:13:41] Speaker B: Oh, I’m writing myself a note.

[00:13:43] Speaker A: It’s got to say something like, dinner time, girls. And it’s got the whales swamping the poor seal off the ice. That could be a nice graphic illustration in black and white.

[00:13:55] Speaker B: It could, yeah.

[00:13:56] Speaker A: Anyway, if you’d like to discuss that with us, brain junk podcast, you can always email us. You can go old school and do brainjunkpodcast@gmail.com. That’s practically like sending a telegram now did you can do it if you want. We’re there.

All right. Catch us next time when we share more of everything you never knew you wanted to know, and I guarantee you will not be bored.

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