They rather than us: orcas attack pleasure boats in groups in Spanish and Portuguese waters

A striking phenomenon: off the coast of Spain and Portugal, from Galicia to Gibraltar, killer whales commit organized attacks on sailing boats in groups. Scientists are not yet sure what gets into them, but it is certain that several boats have already been seriously damaged.

The stories are to shake your pants. In the last two months, two sailing boats have already lost parts of their rudders. At least one crew member was injured when a boat was rammed and many boats were seriously damaged.

The culprits are killer whales, also known as killer whales. These are the largest black and white colored members of the dolphin family. These animals have enormous dimensions. The males can reach 8 meters in length and weigh 10,000 kilos. They are highly intelligent and normally hunt sea lions, seals and other marine mammals in teams.

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Boat of 11 meters

The last known attack took place last Friday for Coruna, on the north-west coast of Spain. The Halcyon Yachts boat, some 11 meters long, was carrying passengers to the British island. But that went terribly wrong when an orca decided to ram the stern more than fifteen times.

“The boat became rudderless and had to be towed back to port in Spain,” Halcyon Yachts owner Pete Green told The Guardian.

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Curious nature

That same day, local coastal and maritime authorities warned of groups of killer whales off the coast of the Spanish city of Vigo. There had recently been two more incidents involving killer whales. On August 30, a French sailboat contacted the Spanish Coast Guard after it was attacked by killer whales.

Not much later, a Spanish yacht Mirfak lost part of its rudder due to a collision with killer whales. Biologists, following a small group of killer whales in the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco, say in The Guardian that the animals are very curious by nature. As a result, they tend to follow boats very close and sometimes cannot resist touching the rudder blade. In the past, however, this never happened with as much force and energy as in the last incidents.

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The same group of attackers


The Spanish coast guard urges sailing ships to “keep their distance” from the animals. Still, that is not easy, because the orcas, according to the scientists, chased boats in “an extremely unusual way” in the incidents of recent months. The experts speculate that the orcas experience stress because they fear that their existence as a group is threatened.

Marine biologist Ruth Esteban assumes that it concerns one and the same group of killer whales. “There is little chance that two groups of killer whales will exhibit this highly unusual behavior,” he said.

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Organized attack

The experiences of the attacked crew members speak volumes about the seriousness of the situation. On July 29 a boat of 14 meters long was surrounded by no less than 9 orcas. For an hour they rammed the hull of the ship, eventually turning the boat 180 degrees and breaking the rudder. During the attack, the crew heard “loud whistling noises”. “It felt like an organized attack,” said Morris.

A week earlier, the crew of another boat nearby had a similar experience. In addition, the encirclement took about 50 minutes. The boat was rammed so hard that “the helmsman’s shoulder nearly dislocated,” the captain said.

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Giant yacht lifted

The night before, pleasure boats Beverley Harris and Kevin Large felt their 12 meter yacht “lifted”. The duo were sailing, but then the boat suddenly came to a stop and was turned a few times.

Nearby, one Nick Giles experienced the same with his yacht Moody. “I suddenly heard a huge bang,” explains Giles. His boat also turned 180 degrees and was then lifted. After fifteen minutes it became quiet again, but the operating system of the boot was damaged.


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