Solon Intriago is an accomplished scuba diver by any standards. With more than thirty years of experience as a dive master, he has logged more than 15,000 dives, each one in the Galapagos Islands. He has led thousands of divers on adventures under the waves. He is about to experience the most memorable dive of his life and he was fortunate enough to be recording the whole event on his underwater camera. The dive took Solon’s group over stunning rock formations in 14m (40 feet) of water. They experienced the hypnotic effect of millions of salemas sweeping past them and surrounding them. Small fish that school tightly to avoid predators, salemas are a beautiful sight as they move quickly in unison, almost like a massive organism performing an underwater dance. The dance is designed to help them evade predators, such as the Galapagos penguin and the sea lions that follow the huge schools, hoping for a snack or two. Solon was filming the salemas when a pair of Pacific green turtles cruised past, hugging the wall, looking for sponges and plants to eat. Penguins appeared and dashed past closely, also caught on film. Scuba divers are delighted to see this rare and beautiful flightless bird in its natural environment. The Galapagos Islands are the only place in the world, except Antarctica where penguins can be found. The cold water currents bring sardines and other fish here that the penguins require. Despite being on the equator, the waters around the islands are cold, but rich in marine life. As Solon was filming, he saw a gigantic shadow in the distance and recognized it as an orca. Incredibly, the orca swam directly at Solon as it searched for prey. Orcas, also known as killer whales are unmistakably the top predators of the ocean. Even great white sharks fear these intelligent and powerful animals. Hunting in packs, with a level of cunning that is unrivaled, orcas command complete respect and even awe. Solon managed to keep his camera aimed at the giant animal as it banked and swam toward the surface near him. Another diver can be seen recording the orca as well and screams of disbelief and joy can be heard as they look at each other. A sea lion can be seen chasing the salemas after the orca swims through. It would be wise for all of these animals to keep an eye out for the orca as it hunts. Any of them would be unable to escape if the orca spied them. With jaws powerful enough to crack the shell of even the largest turtle, these formidable beasts can eat anything they want. But there has never been a recorded incident of a wild orca attacking a human. These divers are perfectly safe in the water. Orcas are one of the world’s most incredible animals. These divers will never forget their close encounter with this magnificent whale.
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