The Orca

is probably the Thresher whale. Pliny thus describes it:--"The Balaena

(whale of some sort) penetrates to our seas even. It is said that they

are not to be seen in the ocean of Gades (Bay of Cadiz) before the

winter solstice, and that at periodical seasons they retire and conceal

themselves in some calm capacious bay, in which they take a delight in

bringing forth. This fact, however, is known to the Orca, an animal

ch is particularly hostile to the Balaena, and the form of which

cannot be in any way accurately described, but as an enormous mass of

flesh, armed with teeth. This animal attacks the Balaena in its place of

retirement, and with its teeth tears its young, or else attacks the

females which have just brought forth, and, indeed, while they are still

pregnant; and, as they rush upon them, it pierces them just as though

they had been attacked by the beak of a Liburnian Galley. The female

Balaenae, devoid of all flexibility, without energy to defend themselves,

and overburdened by their own weight; weakened, too, by gestation, or

else the pains of recent parturition, are well aware that their only

resource is to take flight in the open sea, and to range over the whole

face of the ocean; while the Orcae, on the other hand, do all in their

power to meet them in their flight, throw themselves in their way, and

kill them either cooped up in a narrow passage, or else drive them on a

shoal, or dash them to pieces against the rocks. When these battles are

witnessed, it appears just as though the sea were infuriate against

itself; not a breath of wind is there to be felt in the bay, and yet the

waves, by their pantings and their repeated blows, are heaved aloft in a

way which no whirlwind could effect.

"An Orca has been seen even in the port of Ostia, where it was attacked

by the Emperor Claudius. It was while he was constructing the harbour

there that this orca came, attracted by some hides, which, having been

brought from Gaul, had happened to fall overboard there. By feeding

upon these for several days it had quite glutted itself, having made for

itself a channel in the shoaly water. Here, however, the sand was thrown

up by the action of the wind to such an extent that the creature found

it quite impossible to turn round; and while in the act of pursuing its

prey, it was propelled by the waves towards the shore, so that its back

came to be perceived above the level of the water, very much resembling

in appearance the keel of a vessel turned bottom upwards. Upon this,

Caesar ordered a number of nets to be extended at the mouth of the

harbour, from shore to shore, while he himself went there with the

Praetorian Cohorts, and so afforded a spectacle to the Roman people; for

boats assailed the monster, while the soldiers on board showered lances

upon it. I, myself, saw one of the boats sunk by the water which the

animal, as it respired, showered down upon it."

Olaus Magnus thus writes "Of the fight between the Whale and the Orca. A

Whale is a very great fish, about one hundred, or three hundred foot

long, and the body is of a vast magnitude, yet the Orca, which is

smaller in quantity, but more nimble to assault, and cruel to come on,

is his deadly Enemy. An Orca is like a Hull turned inwards outward; a

Beast with fierce Teeth, with which, as with the Stern of a Ship, he

rends the Whale's Guts, and tears its Calve's body open, or he quickly

runs and drives him up and down with his prickly back, that he makes him

run to Fords and Shores. But the Whale, that cannot turn its huge

body, not knowing how to resist the wily Orca, puts all its hopes in

flight; yet that flight is weak, because this sluggish Beast, burdned by

its own weight, wants one to guide her, to fly to the Foords, to escape

the dangers."