Over the summer, researchers began to realize that Orca whales, sometimes known as “killer whales,” have begun attacking boats along the coasts of Spain and Portugal. These attacks have been coordinated, and anyone who encountered them insists that the animals were communicating and working in tandem.
Since the phenomenon was first reported earlier this year, sailors have reported more whale attacks in the same area. Another video of one of these encounters was recently shared online by a British sailor named David Smith.
Smith was sailing on a 45-foot yacht off the coast of Portugal in October when his boat was attacked by a group of angry Orcas.
“I don’t frighten easily and this was terrifying,” Smith told the BBC. “I looked at this animal – and it was jet black and brilliant white,” he added.
Since 2013, Smith has been sailing around European coasts delivering boats to their owners. In October, he was delivering a yacht from France to Gibraltar when he and his crew noticed that they were being attacked by whales. The Gibraltar orcas are endangered, and it is estimated that there are fewer than 50 of them remaining in the wild.
The attack began just before sunset, and the crew did not realize what they were dealing with at first.
Smiths says that the first crew member to notice shouted out, “it looks like we have some large dolphins.”
Smith quickly realized that they were whales because of the color. For nearly two hours the group of whales rammed the boat while it was sailing off the coast of Portugal.
“It was continuous. I think there were six or seven animals, but it seemed like the juvenile ones — the smaller ones — were most active. They seemed to be going for the rudder, the wheel would just start spinning really fast every time there was an impact,” Smith said.
Unfortunately, the group was out of radio range and could not call for help until they were able to reach the Portuguese coast guard on a satellite phone. The coast guard instructed them to cut the engine, take down the sails and appear as “uninteresting” as possible to the orcas.
“So then we were just drifting. But while I was on the phone, I could hear them ramming the boat. At one point, one of the larger animals came right to the stern and flipped onto its back — you could see its bright white underside,” Smith said.
He feared that one of the animals could rupture the boat and cause them to sink.
“If that fractures, you’re really in trouble. I was definitely preparing to ask the Portuguese coast guard to send a helicopter to get us off,” Smith said.
Then he said that the attack stopped as suddenly as it began.
This case is among 40 similar incidents that have occurred this year.
Marine biologist Jörn Selling has suggested that possibly the orcas became comfortable with the quieter waters during the pandemic restrictions, and are now disturbed by the increase in traffic now that businesses are slowly going back to normal.
Morris believes the orcas seemed to be fighting back against something, and she hopes that these encounters could raise some awareness about what this species is facing.
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