Orca attacks on ships
Scientists are baffled by killer whales colliding with sailboats across Spain and Portugal, from the Strait of Gibraltar to Galicia.
Killer whales have been harassing yachts, damaging boats and injuring crews
In the last two months, from the south to the north of Spain, sailors have sent calls for help after disturbing encounters.
Two ships lost part of their rudders, at least one crew member suffered bruises from the impact of the onslaught and several ships suffered serious damage.
The latest incident occurred off the northern coast of Spain, in a 36-foot boat, an orca rammed its stern at least 15 times. The ship lost its direction and was towed to port to assess the damage.
Around the same time, there were radio warnings of orca sightings 70 miles to the south, in Vigo, near the site of at least two recent collisions.
On August 30, a French-flagged ship radioed the coast guard to say it was “under attack” by killer whales.
Later that day, a Spanish navy yacht lost part of its rudder after an encounter with killer whales under the stern.
Highly intelligent social mammals, orcas are the largest of the dolphin family. Researchers studying a small population in the Strait of Gibraltar say they are curious and that it is normal for them to follow a ship closely, even to interact with the rudder, but never with the force suggested here.
The Spanish maritime authorities warned the ships to “keep their distance.”
But reports from sailors around the strait throughout July and August suggest this may be difficult – at least one group appears to be chasing ships in behavior that scientists agree is “very unusual” and “concerning. “.
It is difficult to understand what is happening, but it could indicate stress in a population that is in danger.
On July 29, off Cape Trafalgar, a 46-foot boat was surrounded by nine killer whales. The cetaceans collided with the hull for more than an hour, turning the boat 180 degrees, shutting down the engine and breaking the rudder, while communicating with loud hisses.
It felt, he said, “totally orchestrated.” Earlier that week, another ship in the area reported a 50-minute encounter; the skipper said the force of the onslaught “almost dislocated the helmsman’s shoulder.”
Another 40-foot yacht came to a sudden stop and then turned several times. The boat was felt to lift up and said it was pushed without a rudder for 15 minutes.
It is not known if all the encounters involve the same group, but it is believed that two groups are unlikely to display such unusual behavior.
Currently a VHF radio alert arrives on the Spanish coast. “All the ships, all the ships, Orcas to the north”