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Videos: Rare Killer Whale Sighting In SoCal Waters Is Kind Of Magical

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A pod of killer whales were filmed underwater during a rare sighting just off the coast of San Onofre State Beach this week.

The black and white orcas, spotted by a whale-watching charter on Wednesday, are thought to be Eastern Tropical Pacific orcas, a variety that typically lives in Mexican waters, reports the OC Weekly. Operators of Dana Point-based Harbor Boat Rentals first spotted the pod and contacted captain Frank Brennan with Dana Wharf Whale Watching who was taking a group out to see a blue whale. When their catamaran arrived to the suggested coordinates—just 8 miles from the beach and just south of San Clemente in Orange County—they began filming the pod underwater with a GoPro.

In the video, at least five of the orcas can be seen calmly swimming beneath the boat. As the camera occasionally moves above the water—in a somewhat surreal motion—several of the orcas can also be seen breaching the surface of the water as they swim along. Around the 1:06-minute mark, a loud "Brrraaap" burp-like sound can be heard, which Donna Kalez, manager at Dana Wharf who edited the video, attributes to a calf in the pod that was nursing.

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While a different breed of orcas—known as CA51—occasionally make their way down south from the waters around Monterey, the breed believed to have been caught on camera is rarely seen in U.S. waters, especially this far north. The last time this variety was seen in the area was January 16. “It’s very rare. As quick as they come, they just disappear,” says Marcus Estrada, deckhand of the catamaran that filmed the pod. In the ten years that Estrada has worked for Dana Wharf, he has only seen orcas.

“My life is made if I see an orca every year. It’s the Holy Grail of whale watching,” says Kalez.

Harbor Boat Rentals also caught another shot of the pod as it swam along side of the catamaran. They shared the video on Instagram: