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Orcas / Killer Whales Ramming Yachts / Sailboats

Mikefule

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
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Location
Lincolnshire UK
A rare and Fortean sighting indeed: a science article from the BBC which is detailed, well written, balanced, looks at the likely causes and consequences, and doesn't trivialise or sensationalise!

The story is of Orcas/killer whales following and repeatedly head butting yachts and fishing boats, apparently deliberately targeting the rudder. For the crews of the boats this must be very frightening but it may or may not be a "hostile attack".

If you imagine something similar happening to mediaeval seafarers in small unpowered boats, with no scientific understanding of the orcas, it is easy to see how it would feed into myths and legends about the kraken, or sea serpents, and the like.

I am not at all religious, but I am a boating enthusiast, and this old fisherman's prayer came to me mind: "O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/buqvasp1rr/orcas-spain-portugal
 
Orca attacks on sailboats have increased since the report above was posted. It's still the case that no one's quite sure why this is happening.
Killer whales are 'attacking' sailboats near Europe's coast. Scientists don't know why

Ester Kristine Storkson was asleep on her father's small yacht earlier this month, sailing off the coast of France, when she was violently awakened.

Scrambling on deck, she spotted several orcas, or killer whales, surrounding them. The steering wheel swung wildly. At one point, the 37-foot sailboat was pushed through 180 degrees, heading it in the opposite direction.

They were "ramming the boat," Storkson says. "They [hit] us repeatedly ... giving us the impression that it was a coordinated attack." ...

After about 15 minutes, the orcas broke off, leaving father and daughter to assess the damage. They stuck a GoPro camera in the water, she says, and could see that "approximately three-quarters of [the rudder] was broken off, and some metal was bent." ...

There is no record of an orca killing a human in the wild. Still, two boats were reportedly sunk by orcas off the coast of Portugal last month, in the worst such encounter since authorities have tracked them. ...

These encounters — most scientists shun the word "attack" — have been getting the attention of sailors and scientists alike in the past two years, as their frequency seems to be increasing. Sailing magazines and websites have written about the phenomenon, noting that orcas seem to be especially attracted to a boat's rudder. A Facebook group, with more than 13,000 members, has sprung up to trade personal reports of boat-orca encounters and speculation on avoidance tactics. And, of course, there are no shortage of dramatic videos posted to YouTube. ...

The population of orcas along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts is quite small. Scientists believe that the damage to boats is being done by just a few juvenile males, says Jared Towers, the director of Bay Cetology, a research organization in British Columbia.

"There's something about moving parts ... that seem to stimulate them," he says. "Perhaps that's why they're focused on the rudders." ...

Towers points out that such "games" tend to go in and out of fashion in orca society. For example, right now in a population he studies in the Pacific, "we have juvenile males who ... often interact with prawn and crab traps," he says. "That's just been a fad for a few years."

Back in the 1990s, for some orcas in the Pacific, something else was in vogue. "They'd kill fish and just swim around with this fish on their head," Towers says. "We just don't see that anymore."
FULL STORY: https://www.npr.org/2022/08/20/1117993583/orcas-attacks-spain-portugal-killer-whales
 
For example ... Here's a YouTube video of one such rudder-bashing encounter off Cadiz ...

 
Orca rams fishing boat off Scottish coast

Orca 'rams into fishing boat' off Scottish coast in UK first
Dr Wim Rutten had just set sail from Lerwick when the boat was rammed - believed to be the first such attack in UK waters.



A fisherman has described the moment a killer whale barged into his boat in Shetland.

Dutchman Dr Wim Rutten, 72, had just set sail from Lerwick when the incident happened. It is believed to have been the first Orca attack of its kind in UK waters.


The experienced yachtsman was sailing in the sea fishing for mackerel when the whale rammed into his boat's stern, reports the Daily Mirror.
https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/orca-rams-boat-scottish-coast-30294647
 
For example ... Here's a YouTube video of one such rudder-bashing encounter off Cadiz ...

There is an as yet unproven thought that trolling lures can make popping, and other sounds in the water, but it’s not yet clear if trolled fishing lines do create sounds in the water. Worthy of testing I would suggest, as it may be this that the Orcas are disliking so much?
 
I'm guessing that this is learned behavior, and orcas have learned that humans (well, boats) are a threat and are reacting accordingly.
Scientists have been monitoring the events for a long time. The Atlantic Orca Working group told The New York Times that since 2020, orcas were documented swimming at or reacting to vessels about 500 times in the seas around Morocco, Portugal, and Spain. They caused physical damage to the watercraft in about a fifth of those incidents. (PopSci). It’s not yet clear why they are doing this but what is clear is that it’s a learned behavior.
 

Orca Rams Into Yacht Near Scotland, Suggesting the Behavior May Be Spreading​


/ To be fair, Oceana has always been at war with somebody

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smar...scotland-behavior-may-be-spreading-180982429/

"Though scientists don’t quite know what to make of the recent incident, they say it might mean the behavior is spreading. This is believed to be the first known orca-boat encounter in northern waters, as Philip Hoare and Jeroen Hoekendijk report for the Guardian."
 
The attacks continue. I blame The Simpsons.

A pod of orcas has attacked and sunk another boat in southwestern Europe after relentlessly bombarding the vessel and its crew for almost an hour on Halloween. It is the fourth time that orcas from this region's population have sunk a vessel in the last two years.

On Oct. 31, the Grazie Mamma — a mid-size sailing yacht owned by Polish cruise company Morskie Mile — was attacked by an unknown number of orcas for around 45 minutes off the coast of Morocco in the Strait of Gibraltar, Morskie Mile representatives wrote in a Facebook post translated from Polish.

The orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whales, repeatedly hit the yacht's rudder causing major damage and allowing water into the vessel's hull. Despite receiving aid from the Moroccan Navy and being towed toward safety, the boat eventually sank as it entered the port of Tanger-Med in Morocco. All passengers were safely evacuated to rescue boats before the ship sank.

https://www.livescience.com/animals...oat-in-europe-after-a-nearly-hour-long-attack
 
Orcas have been attacking and sinking boats for a long time. I can remember a solo yachtsman (but not his name!) being sunk and feeling terrified by the noise the pod were making as they destroyed his boat. They didn't attack his life raft for some reason.

Another was the Robertson Family in the Pacific in 1972. Their adventure was on BBC world service last month (you can hear it on the website). Adrift for weeks on a small dinghy. The son who was 16 at the time remembers the terror that the orcas would attack them as they scrambled into the dinghy.
 
Orcas have been attacking and sinking boats for a long time. I can remember a solo yachtsman (but not his name!) being sunk and feeling terrified by the noise the pod were making as they destroyed his boat. They didn't attack his life raft for some reason.

Another was the Robertson Family in the Pacific in 1972. Their adventure was on BBC world service last month (you can hear it on the website). Adrift for weeks on a small dinghy. The son who was 16 at the time remembers the terror that the orcas would attack them as they scrambled into the dinghy.
Maybe they just have a fixation to associate and attack that particular form/or below water level hull shape - anything that appears to look like a seal or shark etc?
 
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Yacht hunting season reopens.

An unknown number of orcas have sunk a yacht after ramming it in Moroccan waters in the strait of Gibraltar, Spain’s maritime rescue service has said, in the latest in a series of similar incidents involving the animals.

The vessel, Alboran Cognac, which measured 15 metres (49ft) in length and carried two people, encountered the highly social apex predators, also known as killer whales, at 9am local time on Sunday.

The passengers reported feeling sudden blows to the hull and rudder before the boat started taking on water. After alerting the rescue services, a nearby oil tanker took them onboard and transported them to Gibraltar. The yacht was left adrift and eventually sank.

The incident is the latest example of recurring orca rammings around the Gibraltar strait that separates Europe from Africa and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal and north-western Spain. Experts believe them to involve a subpopulation of about 15 individuals given the designation “Gladis”.

According to the research group GT Atlantic Orca, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca sub-species, there have been nearly 700 interactions since orca attacks on ships in the region were first reported in May 2020.

Researchers are unsure about the causes for the behaviour, but theories include that it is a playful manifestation of the mammals’ curiosity, a social fad or the intentional targeting of what they perceive as competitors for their favourite prey, the local bluefin tuna. ...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/a...cident-involving-orcas-in-strait-of-gibraltar
 
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