Whale Kills Shark, Setting Biology on Its Ear

A 1997 encounter was caught on tape, challenging shark's supremacy of the seas.

ByABC News via logo
November 27, 2009, 4:42 PM

Nov. 28, 2009 — -- This story and the related video retell part of what you can see in the documentary "The Whale That Ate Jaws" on the National Geographic Channel.

It tells the true story of a 1997 encounter between a great white shark and an orca killer whale. Partially captured on film, it was witnessed by a boat-full of people on a whale watching trip near the Farallon Islands, 26 miles west of San Francisco.

Our report that follows is written in the same Old English verse form used in the great medieval epic, "Beowulf."

Readers may remember that Beowulf himself was said to be a formidable swimmer beneath the waves.

What could be worse
           than the great white?

The nightmare shark,
           the master monster,

Gobbler of gullible
           bathers at beaches,

Cruelest of killers
          (as "Jaws" has burned into our brains)

Row upon row
           of flesh-tearing teeth.

A fearless bully
           for he fears none

Of the other creatures
           in the sea. Or does he?

Well ....

One sunny day
           near California's coastal islands.

Where about a hundred great whites gather
           for two months every fall,

To dine on the sumptuous
           sun-bathing seals,

A tourist boat chanced
           on a surprising display.

At this point an orca whale surfaces next to the boat with a shark in its mouth. "He is eating the shark!! a woman is heard shouting on the film shot that day. "Oh, my God...this is really, really strange!"

A biologist was radioed.
           He rushed to the scene.

When he got there, the great white
           beast was just scattered

Gobbets of flesh
           floating like flotsam.

But what had happened?!
           It soon became clear,

The fatuous fish
           had met his match.

A magnificent mammal --
           orca, the killer whale,

Apex predator,
           the "Wolf of the Sea"