A fisherman has relived the “once in a lifetime” moment a pod of 20 killer whales surrounded his small boat off the north-east coast.
Dale Harris was about two miles from the shore between Fraserburgh and Peterhead when he noticed a disturbance in the water.
He and his skipper, James Masson, were “amazed” when an orca broke through the waves feet away from the Minerva FR147, and they realised they were in the presence of a pod of the marine predators.
Mr Masson captured the moment with his mobile phone and jaw-dropping footage of the close encounter has since been viewed thousands of times by nature enthusiasts across the world.
Mr Harris said: “We were between Rattray Head and St Combs, about two-and-a-half miles out.
“At the time, we were heading closer in to the shore to get our next fleet of creels.
“It was amazing. I don’t suppose we’ll see that happen again – but it is one of the joys of the job.”
It is thought the animals have travelled from Iceland in time for seal season, and they were later observed hunting at the entrance to Peterhead Harbour.
Marine biology student Chloe Fraser has had a lifelong fascination with the whales, which she spotted along with some worried seals clambering onto rocks to get away from them.
She said: “I was rock-pooling at the look-out where I dive on The Esplanade by the fish market.
“Orcas are certainly my favourite sea creature, so I’ve looked into them most of my life.
“I could see three individuals – two females and possibly a calf.
“They were possibly hunting the seals, as the poor seals were trying to clamber up the rocks.
“I then followed them to Sandford Bay and waited. They eventually resurfaced 10 minutes later and again I saw three individuals.
“I haven’t seen orcas before, so it was amazing.”
Orca sightings are rare in the UK but they visit the nation’s shores most commonly between May and June to chase seals.
Steve Truluck, a volunteer for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity, said: “At this time of year we have additional pods coming down from Iceland – the pods eat herring there in the winter and then, cruel as it sounds, come here to eat the seals as the young take to the water.
“Peterhead is a good spot for orcas as the water flows round and food collects in the area.”