Orcas are making headlines as incidents of killer whales ambushing boats seem to be becoming more prevalent. For one boat captain, it’s happened twice – and the second time seems more targeted.
Dan Craze said Newsweek The first time his boat encountered a group of killer whales was in 2020, when he and his crew were ferrying a yacht through the Strait of Gibraltar, which runs between Spain and Morocco. While tales of orca ambushes have only recently begun to grow in popularity, he says he was on one of the first boats to experience the “extremely unusual” behavior.
“I was surrounded by a pack of eight orcas, which pushed the boat for about an hour,” said Craze, adding that the ship’s rudder was so badly damaged it had to be towed to the nearest anchorage.
Then it happened again in April near the Canary Islands, he said. At first, Kreese thought they had been hit by a wave, but when they felt a sudden force again, he realized that they weren’t just feeling the fury of the water.
“My first reaction was, Please! Not again,” Krasz told NEWSWEEK. “There’s not much one can do. They’re very strong and smart.”
He said video from the encounter shows the orcas “gnawing at the rudders” with one of the whales seen swimming around with a piece of the rudder in its mouth.
This time around, the orcas seemed more stealthy in their approach — and seemed to know exactly what to do to stop the boat from traveling any further, Craze said.
“The first time, we heard them communicating under the boat,” he told NEWSWEEK. “This time, they were quiet, and it didn’t take them long to destroy both ledges… They seemed to know exactly what they were doing. They didn’t touch anything else.”
The attack on the rudders lasted about 15 minutes. But when the crew started heading for the Spanish coast, they turned back.
“All of a sudden, an adult orca started chasing us. Within a couple of minutes, it was under the boat, and that was when we realized there was still a small piece of fiberglass left and it wanted to finish the job,” said Kreese. After that, we didn’t see them anymore.
Kriz is just one of several people who have had encounters with orcas off the coasts of Portugal and Spain in recent months. In the past two years, the Orca GTOA research group has found that accidents have more than tripled, with 52 interactions in 2020 and 207 in 2022.
Biologist and wildlife conservationist Jeff Corwin previously told CBS News that the behavior “highlights the amazing intelligence” of whales.
“What we’re seeing is adaptive behavior,” he said. “We’re learning how they actually learn from their environment and then they’re taking those skill sets and sharing them and teaching them to other whales.”
He said there are two main theories as to why this happened: one, that it is some kind of “play” or “sport” for the whales, or two, that it is the result of a “negative experience, a traumatic event” years later. of boats colliding and injuring whales.
But the truth is behind itremains a mystery.
“Nobody knows why this happens,” Andrew Treats, a professor and director of marine mammal research at the University of British Columbia, told CBS News. “My idea, or what anyone can give you, is an educated speculation. It is a complete mystery, unprecedented.”
Killer whales are the only type of whale that appears to attack boats in this area, and while the reason is unclear, Tritts said something is positively reinforcing the behavior among them.
Caitlin O’Kane contributed to this report.
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