Nature can be beautiful but it can also be harsh. The orca is a perfect example of this contrast. One of the most sophisticated and intelligent animals on earth, it is capable of hunting cooperatively with other orcas, communicating and planning as it does so. Although it is not the largest creature in the ocean, it is undeniably the most formidable. Even great white sharks avoid contact with these super predators. Orcas in the Galapagos Islands are known to eat sharks, sea lions, penguins, and even giant sea turtles. The seemingly impervious shell of the Pacific green turtle is no match for the frighteningly powerful jaws of the orca. With unbelievable crushing force, this orca cracked the shell of an enormous turtle with ease. A group of scuba divers from Canada had been exploring the undersea world from their liveaboard tour boat but they ventured out in two of the inflatable pangas to enjoy a close look at the creatures on the shore line, in between their dives. What they saw was an unbelievable sight. Thrilled to witness the dorsal fin of this giant and see it surfacing nearby, they eagerly shot video and pictures of the once in a lifetime display. It was only after a few minutes that they realized that the orca was hunting in the bay and that they were witnessing the results of an underwater battle for survival as the orca ate a magnificent turtle right in front of them. As the orca surfaced, the split shell could be seen hanging off the dorsal fin of the killer whale. The guides explained that an orca will crush the shell of a turtle and then lodge it between rocks to allow them to scrape out the meat with their jaws. These scuba divers have experienced conflicting emotions on many occasions as they have encountered animals fighting beneath the waves. For both the predator and the prey, these battles are about survival and it is not the place of humans to meddle in the struggles. Their guides have taught them that nature does not need our help. This is especially well understood in the Galapagos Islands where the balance of nature can be more precarious and interference from people can have unthinkable consequences. While it was difficult to witness the end of this beautiful turtle, it was a privilege to be present to witness the spectacle of such a powerful animal in its natural environment. These scuba divers entered the water here an hour later to swim with marine iguanas. While they are well aware that orcas have never killed a human in the wild, the image of the turtle and the immense power of the orca was on their minds as they dove, reminding them that humans are visitors in this unforgiving domain. When people enter the water, they are clumsy and awkward and always at the mercy of the animals who thrive in this world. We must respect those animals that call this home.
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