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'Just freaked' by curious orca

JOE DAWSON
Last updated 08:00 21/11/2012
orcas
JASON OXENHAM
CLOSE ENCOUNTER: He’s smiling now but John Eade wasn’t laughing when he discovered he was swimming with orca whales.

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John Eade has never liked murky water and with good reason - you can never tell what's lurking below.

And after last weekend's events Mr Eade will be even keener to stick to crystal clear waters.

The Mt Eden spear fisherman got the shock of his life on November 11 when he came face to face with a small pod of orca whales while making his way back to shore after a swim at Matheson's Bay, near Leigh.

"I'd been in the water for about an hour and I was coming back in, and I had about 40 metres to go," Mr Eade says, when he noticed he wasn't alone.

Swimming on his side with his face out of the water he was suddenly "freaked" by the sight of a huge fin emerging from the cloudy depths.

He saw two whales but bystanders ashore told him there were up to four, and estimated the beasts were up to 20m long.

Having witnessed orcas pick the flesh from a stingray and leave its skeleton largely intact he was eager to get out of the water.

He had his work cut out to get to safety.

"Because the water was murky I couldn't see jack except for their fins.

"At first it was just a single fin and I just freaked, it wasn't deep enough I thought for an orca."

He abandoned his trip to the beach and instead headed for the closer safety of rocks on the edge of the bay.

"I took off over there and then it took about 15 minutes to scamper across the rocks on an incoming tide with two orcas circling."

He says the whales were only young and he probably wasn't in any real danger - but he wasn't about to linger in the water.

"They were just curious and checking things out, and their usual food is seals and stingrays.

"But I'd rather not have had the experience - what can I say, it was freaky.

"I was definitely in shock, it took me a few hours to get over that. I definitely woke up thinking about them."

Mr Eade says he will be sticking to clear water from now on.

"The murky waters freak me out. All shark attacks happen in murky water because sharks can't tell the difference between seals and humans."

He was also disturbed by a man who threw a stick into the water for his dog to fetch while the whales were very close in.

"The orcas started chasing the dog, they came right up to the beach and were right on him but they didn't bite him."

Matheson's Bay local Glen Walker says it is not uncommon to see whales in the bay.

"Quite often they come through the gap in the rocks and cruise around," he says.

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"I've been out in a little tinny and it's quite fascinating because they are so large."

- Central Leader

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