Home » Pod of 20 Killer Whales Attacks Ship and Shakes It ‘Like a Nutshell’
Featured Global News News South America

Pod of 20 Killer Whales Attacks Ship and Shakes It ‘Like a Nutshell’

A pod of roughly 20 killer whales have attacked another ship in the south of Spain, marking the second such incident in the region this month. The incident took place on Monday afternoon at Cape Trafalgar and lasted nearly an hour.

“We saw about 20 orcas arrive,” Captain Sébastien Destremau told radio station France Bleu. “The group split in two. Eight to 10 of them began to systematically attack our rudder.” In accordance with recommended procedure, Destremau lowered the sails to stop the ship. However, after 20 minutes, the killer whales, also known as orcas, had not given up, and the 15-ton boat, named The Lancelot, was being shaken “like a nutshell.”

Similarly aggressive encounters have been reported off the Iberian coast since May 2020. However, they have become more frequent, according to a study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science in June 2022. Researchers say that the attacks may all be driven by a single, revenge-bent female, which has taught the other orcas to follow suit.

“I put the engine back on,” Destremau said of this encounter. “I moved forward and backward depending on the orcas to prevent them from approaching the rudder. This strategy raised questions among the crew because we were afraid of annoying them more.

“As the killer whales weren’t budging, I started making very tight circles, with the bar at full throttle and, after a few minutes, they left. But I don’t know if it’s this maneuver that was useful or if they would have left anyway,” Destremau added.

The crew are all safe and the boat has been able to continue on its journey. However, a similar attack on May 4 resulted in much more damage. In this incident, the crew were forced to abandon the Swiss sailing yacht, named Champagne, after it was attacked by three orcas off the coast of Gibraltar.

“The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course. We don’t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day,” Alfredo López Fernandez told LiveScience. He is a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and a representative of the Grupo de Trabajo Orca Atlántica (Atlantic Orca Working Group).

López Fernandez said that the initiating female, which they have named White Gladis, may have been struck by a vessel in the past, which has made her lash out against all boats as a means of defense.

Orcas are incredibly social creatures and have likely seen this behavior and copied it. Alternatively, the killer whales may be engaging in an unusual sort of playful behavior. “Cooperative play is quite common in this species, and a whale would not be aware that a sinking ship is a danger to human’s lives,” Kerstin Bilgmann previously told Newsweek. She is a conservation biologist and research fellow at Macquarie University in New South Wales, Australia.

“Continued protection of the pod and the species should be the priority, while also managing the interactions in a way that does not cause any harm to humans or the whales,” Bilgmann added.

Source : Newsweek