Orca whales have been stepping up their attacks on human boats and shipping vessels, particularly near the Iberian Peninsula.
It makes sense, given how we’ve treated them for decades, but even for all of our experience with these giants, it seems we might have underestimated their intelligence.
Until now, the pod of whales seemed content with damaging a boat’s rudder to the point that it was useless before moving on to other pursuits.
Now, a pod has followed a disabled boat as it was towed into port.
Sailor April Boyes provided a firsthand account in a blog post, stating that they spotted the whales at 9:30pm as they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. They switched off their engines and tried to divert the animal’s attention, to no avail.
“It didn’t take long for them to start hitting our rudder and the force of this would spin the helm violently and you could feel the vibration through the deck.”
They were anything but done, however.
“After an hour of the orcas continuing to hit the rudder it was evidently now completely destroyed and water started to flow into the boat.”Advertisement
The crew put out a Mayday call and was being pulled into port by a tugboat…and an orca pod escort.
According to the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA), the orca attacks on boats near the Iberian Peninsula began in 2020, and have escalated from 52 interactions that year to 207 encounters in 2022.
One in five “attacks” prevent boats from sailing on, but only a handful have resulted in a sunken craft.
No one knows for sure why the whales began attacking boats, though there are a couple of prevailing theories.
One is that a whale in one of the largest pods was injured by a boat and they are exacting revenge.
Another is that the area is overfished for tuna and the orcas are hoping to run off what they see as competition for food.
Whatever the reason, boats in the area need to sail with caution.
And, it sounds like, have a backup plan for getting back to shore.