The fishing boat Orca, captained by the crusty shark hunter Quint in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster Jaws, has sailed into pop culture legend. With its distinctive black and burgundy paint job and harpoon-laden pulpit, the Orca played a pivotal role in the film’s thrilling great white shark battles.
Let’s dive deeper into the history and impact of this iconic movie vessel.
Orca Stats and Features
- Name: Originally called “Warlock,” the boat was re-christened “Orca” for filming
- Make and model: 29-foot wooden Nova Scotia lobster boat
- Top speed: 10 knots
- Key features:
- Spacious rear deck ideal for shark hunting
- Raised pulpit outfitted with harpoons and fishing gear
- Cabin with bunks and galley
- Powerful inboard engine
The Orca’s sturdy design enabled it to smoothly navigate the waters off Martha’s Vineyard during filming while providing ample room for the cast and film equipment.
The Orca’s Role in Jaws
In Jaws, the Orca is captained by the seasoned shark hunter Quint, played by Robert Shaw.
Key scenes featuring the Orca include:
- Quint, Police Chief Brody, and scientist Hooper departing Amity Harbor on a shark hunt
- The trio chasing and battling the great white shark at sea
- Quint recounting his harrowing experience on the USS Indianapolis while en route to face the shark
- The shark attacking and gradually destroying the Orca
- The sinking of the Orca after Quint is killed attempting to fire one last harpoon shot
Throughout the film, the Orca endures rough seas, multiple shark strikes, and final destruction, all while serving as an eerie visual backdrop for Quint’s haunting Indianapolis monologue.
Behind the Scenes: Filming with the Orca
Two Orca boats were actually used during Jaws filming:
- Orca: The original wooden lobster boat purchased for the movie’s dialogue and non-action scenes
- Orca II: A fiberglass replica built to withstand the rigors of the shark attack and sinking sequences
The Orca II allowed the filmmakers to capture high-intensity scenes without damaging the vintage Orca. This clever approach facilitated seamless continuity while preserving the authentic boat.
Fun facts about the Orca’s filming:
- A small-scale model Orca was used for some shark attack close-up shots
- Footage of real sharks was spliced into scenes along with the movie’s mechanical “Bruce” shark
- The Orca II sank for real several times, damaging equipment and cameras
What Happened to the Original Orca?
After filming wrapped, the original Orca met an unfortunate end:
- Sold to a California fisherman then re-purchased by Universal Studios
- Put on display as a prop at Universal Studios’ Jaws ride
- Eventually destroyed, either intentionally or accidentally during attempted repairs
Today, only replicas and salvaged pieces of the Orca remain, treasured by Jaws fans and nautical history enthusiasts. The boat indelibly left its mark through its iconic on-screen role in Jaws.
So as you watch Quint, Brody, and Hooper pursue that dreaded great white once again, take a moment to appreciate the Orca – the unforgettable floating set piece that captivated audiences and helped make Jaws an all-time cinematic triumph.