Forget Jaws — this time it’s personal … for orcas.
Killer whales off the coast of Spain are living up to their name, but instead of targeting great white sharks, pods of fish or seals as they have done in the past — they’re now after people and boats.
Several scientists think the killers of the deep are attacking yachts and boats due to injuries several of them sustained over the summer from rudders, according to the Guardian..
There have been at least 33 of the bizarre attacks in northern Spain, in the Strait of Gibraltar and off Portugal since July, in which the orcas surround small craft and deliberately ram the ships’ rudders, and attempt to tip them over. The attacks have caused severe damage — and in some cases, disabled the ships.
The problem has become so severe, authorities are warning small craft not to sail in those seas.
“The trigger for this strange and aggressive behavior could have been an aversive incident that the orcas had with a boat, and in which the speed of the boat could have been a critical factor,” a group of scientists said in a statement to the Guardian.
“For the moment, we have no clear evidence of when it happened, nor can we say for sure what kind of boat may have been involved, nor whether the incident was accidental or deliberate.”
The researchers added that as a result of possible injury by boat, the orcas “may have felt compelled to act when they saw a sailboat in order to slow it down by going after its rudder” — and adding “the killer whales could simply be toying with sailboats ‘out of curiosity’ now that they had discovered the ability to slow or stop a large moving object.”
Terrified boat owners are not consoled.
In late July, Victoria Morris’ boat was attacked by a pod of nine killer whales that rammed the boat so hard, its rudder broke and the engine failed.
“The noise was really scary. They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat,” Morris told the Guardian in another story. “And this deafening noise as they communicated, whistling to each other. It was so loud that we had to shout.” Morris added the attack felt “totally orchestrated.” When her boat was finally towed back to port, a large chunk of the rudder was missing and the rest was covered in teeth marks.
That week, there were two other hour-long attacks in the area — a 40-foot yacht was spun on its axis and another boat had its rudder slammed so hard, the helmsman’s shoulder was dislocated.
Alfonso Gomez-Jordana Martin, a crew member in the latter attack, told the paper: “Once we were stopped, they came in faster: 10-15 knots, from a distance of about 25m — The impact tipped the boat sideways.”
In September, Graeme Walker‘s 48-foot yacht was assaulted for 45 minutes.
“I felt a thump on the boat and the helm was pulled out of my hand,” he told the paper. “I was not really sure what was happening, then one of the animals broke the surface, on the left-hand side of the boat, for breath. You never know how these things are going to play out. None of us have ever been through anything like this before.”
Meanwhile, orcas in South Africa have stepped up attacks on great white sharks, eviscerating them for their nutrient-rich organs.
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