Rare Footage Captures Aging Orca’s Peaceful Last Moments

Watching the death of a noble creature is one of life’s singular experiences.

Hunters, anglers, and farmers do it all the time. But for many of us, it’s rarer. I can’t imagine I’m alone in saying I remember a good majority of the animal deaths I’ve witnessed, whether it was the first frog I ever shot with my BB gun or the large, freshly dead owl I once found on a short front-country hike.

Imagine seeing a full-grown, wild orca sink into the depths for good.

Pierre Robert de Latour did just that off the coast of Norway on Nov. 6 and filmed it. The footage first shows the moments leading up to the underwater encounter. Latour and his crew observe the whale bobbing at the ocean surface. Suddenly, the cameraman reacts.

“There is something,” he says with some urgency. “There is something. We have to do something with this guy.”

A shallow and passive dive ensues.


Biologists know the whale as Hunchy, according to LiveScience. Identifiable by his distinctive hunched back, he was about 35 years old. Robert de Latour told the outlet that he spent 50 minutes watching two younger orcas struggle to keep Hunchy near the surface before he started filming.

It’s a behavior we’ve observed before in orcas. When the animals recognize signs of mortality in their peers, they often attempt to carry them up for air. Resident orcas have done so with dead calves for prolonged periods, drawing speculation that grief is at play.

The two younger individuals attending Hunchy are absent in the footage. Suspended in gentle seas, the floating animal rolls gently to his right under no apparent strain or effort.

Then he sinks and begins to disappear.

“It’s the first time for me seeing something like this. I recognized him — it was very emotional — and then I saw his giant body sinking,” Robert de Latour told LiveScience. “It is said that orcas don’t abandon individuals that are in trouble. They were helping him until the very last moment.”

I’m not crying, you are.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.