Killer Whale Spotted Near the Cape

The orca is a beloved marine mammal named Old Thom.


A Cape Cod boat captain took this photo of a killer whale spotted 15 miles outside Chatham. / Capeshores Charters

A Cape Cod boat captain was treated to a rare sight on Monday: an orca, or killer whale, just a few miles from the Chatham shore.

Bruce Peters of Capeshores Charters snapped a few quick pictures of the mammal about 15 miles from the beach, he tells the Boston Globe. Then he posted them on Facebook, where they’ve been shared more than 2,200 times.

The seasoned fisherman said he was shocked by the Independence Day sight.

“I’m 60 years old, have been fishing my entire life, and I’ve only seen them twice in my life,” Peters tells the Globe.

The huge marine mammals almost never come this close to land, New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse tells the paper, calling Peters’ find “exceptionally rare.”

Marine biologists on Tuesday identified the orca as a whale named Old Thom, who has apparently been captivating regional ocean observers for nearly a decade.

“It is definitely Old Thom,” says Philip Hamilton, research scientist with the aquarium. “He actually has been seen in the Bay of Fundy a number of times by whale watches and by us doing research.”

Aquarium researchers got up close and personal with Thom in September and posted a video of the encounter on YouTube.

A small nick on his dorsal fin and a patch of white underneath it make him easy to identify, Hamilton says, adding that colleagues at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Newfoundland have confirmed the whale’s identity.

There’s no way to know how old Old Thom actually is, he says, but the earliest recorded sighting of him was in 2008.

The New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Research Blog last year referred to the beast lovingly as “an old friend” and “a legend, a name you know but a figure you may wait years to see.”

Until next time, bud.