Killer whale attack has sunk another ship, this time a sailboat under Polish flag named Grazie Mamma in the Strait of Gibraltar which on October 31, 2023 was attacked by a group of Orcas.
Killer whales attacked the boat and the rudder fin for a full 45 minutes, causing extensive damage and leaks. Despite attempts to bring the yacht to port aided by tugboats and the Moroccan navy, the boat sank at the entrance to Port of Tangier Med read their story on Facebook
Killer whales have attacked boats since 2020
Unfortunately it is not the first time it happens. Since 2020, a group of killer whales have attacked and in several cases sunk entire ships off Gibraltar on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The Orcas do it with frightening precision and seemingly orchestrated coordination when they attack the boats.
There have been more than 500 incidents of killer whale interaction with boats since 2020, Alfredo López Fernandez, a coauthor of a 2022 study in the journal Marine Mammal Science, told NPR earlier this year. At least three of the boats have been completely sunk. However, no people have died in connection with the attacks yet.
Orca attacks a puzzle for researchers
They go after the rudder, make dents in the metal and break parts of the wooden structure under boats and ships. No one can say for sure what is causing the Orca attacks, but the theories are many among researchers from all over the world.
One theory is that they’re just playing around. Another theory is that the whales like the feel of the rudder, because the rudder seems to be the most attacked part of a ship.
According to the 2022 study, the most attacked ship type is a sailboat and the average size of the vessels with which Orcas interacted is 12 m. Then the Orca interaction happened, these vessels were navigating with sail and/or motor at an average speed at 5,93 knots.
Coordinated revenge attacks?
Other researchers believe that these are coordinated revenge attacks probably because of their experiences with fishing boats? Others see it as a more complex form of play that is incomprehensible to humans. They point to, among other things on the fact that killer whales have previously been observed in the Pacific Ocean, which had killed fish and then swam around with them on their heads.
Captain Dan Kriz, a delivery skipper with the company Reliance Yacht Management, have been attacked by Orcas both in 2020 and 2023. He told Newsweek that in 2020 he was surrounded by 8 Orcas that pushed the boat around for about an hour. They could actually hear them communicate under the boat while causing havoc. The killer whales caused significant damage to the rudder and Dan and his crew had to be towed to the nearest marina.
Then in 2023 it happened again. While delivering a catamaran, they felt they were hit bad by a wave, and second time they were hit they realized it was probably the same pack of Orcas attacking the boat. This time the Orcas were quiet while finishing off both rudders in a timespan of only 15 minutes. Dan thinks the second attack were more orchestrated than the first one, like if they had developed their strategy.
- A pod of orcas has sunk a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar link
- Ship Captain Attacked by Orcas Again Says They Developed Their Strategy link
- Wilei Online Library 2022 study link
Image credit: Jonas Bratland