June 2, 2023

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Orcas attack sailboats again, boat sinks a third time: ‘Revengeful behavior of one orca goes viral’ | the animals

Once again, killer whales have attacked sailing yachts in the Strait of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean. Even one sailing yacht has completely sunk, marking the third time since 2020 that the infamous group has been hit. Killer whales succeed in this. The researchers are looking in the same direction: It started with a vengeful orca, which has since been named Gladys. And now a whole group is imitating it.

There was quiet for a while around the notorious group of orcas attacking boats in European waters, but this month two more attacks have come right on the cards. The first attack on May 2 was something to say to you. Leeds captain Greg Blackburn was already battling nature that day, as he was sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar, the ‘Bavaria 46’ encountering difficult weather near Tangiers, Morocco. The sailing yacht had to make its way through gusts of up to 30 knots and waves of 2 to 3 meters. Then suddenly there was a hit. Then another.

look. This is how the May 2 attack in the Strait of Gibraltar went:

Photo of the attack on the sailboat ‘Bavaria 46’. © Janet Morris, Stephen Bidwell

“We knew right away: something was down,” the Briton told 9News. “Then we saw killer whales.” The tour group spotted two large specimens, which were soon joined by four orcas. “Oh dear,” Blackburn says. “There’s not much you can do in a time like this.”

The captain decided to lower the mainsail and make the boat “as dull as possible”. “After reading the stories about these animals and knowing well what was happening to us, I thought we should just get over it.” After a while, the orcas lost interest in the boat and left, but only after their bombing caused thousands of dollars in damage to the yacht and terrorized those on board for an hour.

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Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwill from Cambridge were also on board. They are still trembling. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the killer whales,” Janet told 9News. “We had nowhere to go.” “Orcas love the thrill of the chase, so we had to keep the boat as steady as possible,” adds her husband, Stephen. “But this was not possible because of the wind.” Finally the wrecked boat made it safely to port.

The third boat sank

He attacked a schooner two days later, which failed to do so. The Swiss schooner “Champagne” was targeted in the Strait of Gibraltar on May 4 by a group of three killer whales, one larger and two smaller. The “killer whales” rammed the boat so hard and brutally that there was a hole in the rudder. The Spanish Coast Guard managed to rescue those on board in time, but the sailboat sank completely, somewhere at the entrance to the port of the Spanish fishing town of Barbate, where the yacht was towed.

Picture of a sailboat
Photo of the sailboat “Champagne” after the killer whale attack. The boat sank when too much water was introduced to be successfully pumped out. © Champagne schooner crew

Captain Werner Schaufelberger testifies to a specialized German yacht magazine about the incident. He says that two of the smaller orcas clearly imitated the striking tactics of the larger animal: “The two smaller orcas noticed the larger boat’s manner, and after a little run, they also bumped into the boat.” The killer whales stopped just as the rudder was completely destroyed and the water in the yacht began to rise slowly but surely, to the point where the pumps could no longer cope. job done.

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Since 2020, there have been “constant” reports of killer whales having this type of “hit” by boats in the Straits of Gibraltar and waters around Spain’s Galicia region. Maybe you always share the same group of killer whales. Portuguese biologist Alfredo López Fernandez contributed a paper about the attacks published last year in the scientific journal Marine Mammal Science. He says in response to Live Science that he is aware of three incidents since May 2020 where orcas sank a boat. This previously happened in July and November 2022, both times off the coast of Portugal.

Image for illustration, killer whale.
Image for illustration, killer whale. © Getty Images

A 2022 study reported “more than 250 attacks” by orcas on boats since 2020, almost all of them in the waters between the Straits of Gibraltar and Galicia. The newspaper pointed out that the attacks are “increasingly frequent.” They seem to be aimed mainly at sailboats and follow the same pattern: Orcas approach from the stern and strike the rudder. Once they stop the boat, they lose interest. Lopez-Fernandez stresses that the vast majority of boats are completely harmless. But try it, of course.

The big question: Why do orcas attack? As far as is known, killer whales do not exhibit this behavior anywhere else in the world.

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One traumatized animal

Researchers believe it all started with a traumatized killer whale. The animal, a female orca he named ‘White Gladys’, may have once had a painful collision with a boat and that crucial moment caused the orcas to react with force and vengeance towards the boats. This behavior is copied and taught to other orcas in the group. Killer whales are known for their impressive intelligence and cooperation, and specialized hunting techniques that are passed down through generations.

So it started with White Gladis, and now the group of Orcas displaying the behavior is getting bigger and bigger. “It was determined that it concerned 14 animals through image recognition,” Jan Haelters of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences explained in July last year, after images of orca attacks emerged off the coast of Spain. It is not clear how many animals were involved.

See also. Each of them are stunning photos of past orca attacks in Europe: