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Solitary Orca spotted off the coast of Cape Cod

“I’ve never seen a killer whale, that’s for sure.”

An Orca, believed to be the solitary male known as "Old Thom," was seen off the Coast of Cape Cod by fishermen. Asher Molyneaux

On Sunday afternoon, around 1 p.m., Asher Molyneaux was fast asleep below deck on the Finlander II as the boat dragged for scallops off the coast of Cape Cod. He was suddenly woken up by another crewmember; it was time to head back to shore.

But when Molyneaux got back on deck, something strange appeared in the waters nearby. A dorsal fin, larger than others the crew had seen before. 

“I was a little confused, I had just had a wicked good sleep, and was just getting my whereabouts again when all of a sudden, there was an Orca,” Molyneaux said. 

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Molyneaux, still slightly drowsy, initially thought the Orca was chasing a pod of dolphins. But after re-watching a video another crew member took, it became clear the animals were swimming peacefully next to each other. 

“He was going along, surfacing and spouting and ducking back under and then surfacing again. He was actually swimming alongside six or seven dolphins, it looked like,” he said.

The sighting occurred near the wreck of Regal Sword, a 575-foot freighter that sank in 1979 roughly 25 miles southeast of Chatham. It’s a popular spot for fishermen, Molyneaux said. 

Orcas have been spotted in Massachusetts waters, albeit rarely. The animals, also known as killer whales, are found all over the world, generally in cold water. They are not whales at all, but are actually the largest member of the dolphin family. Males can weigh up to 10 tons, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a wildlife charity. Orcas normally travel in pods, and can cover up to 100 miles in a day. 

However, Molyneaux believes the Orca he spotted is “Old Thom,” a well-known, solitary male that has been spotted in these waters before. The animal is about 30 feet long and weighs eight tons, The Boston Globe reported when it was sighted in 2016. It’s also been seen in the Bay of Fundy, off Nova Scotia. 

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Molyneux had never seen an Orca before, he said. In fact, he didn’t even realize they could come this far south. Molyneux added that he’s seen many sharks in his time on the water, as well as various whale species and many dolphins.

“They’ll all come around the boat, that’s not uncommon at all,” he said. “But I’ve never seen a killer whale, that’s for sure.”

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