What happened? Mysterious orca attacks on boats in southern Spain
It's a unique phenomenon in the world and not observed as frequently as this year in Spain. Marine biologists prefer not to call them "attacks." But how else could we define the onslaught of killer whales, weighing tons, against ships in the Strait of Gibraltar?
In recent months, there were around 60 “interactions” (as maritime authorities call them) of orcas with pleasure boats. Killer whales, often in groups, attacked small boats and caused significant damage.
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Some testimonies speak of true anguish at the action of the killer whales. A couple who made the route from the Portuguese Azores to Barcelona told El Independiente that they were surrounded by 15 orcas for about an hour.
It happened in the waters of Barbate, a town on the heavily travelled Strait of Gibraltar. As they were harassed by the orcas, the couple called the lifeguards. While they came to the rescue of the sailors, they did advise them that there was just one way of dealing with the animals: sit out the "attack."
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The lifeguards told the couple to follow a strict protocol. It came down to letting the orcas shake their boat until they'd get bored of doing it. Needless to say, the couple was terrified of being shipwrecked.
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Biologists still have no idea why these attacks were rampant in southern Spain. The participation of calves together with their mothers makes some researchers suspect that this practice was instituted among orcas as an practice to educate the young.
In fact, in the testimonies of those in the trapped boats one story is repeated: there appeared to be a clear leadership by the adult orcas. As if they gave instructions to the rest.
If a group of orcas "engages" with you, it is recommended is to stop the engine, lower sails, leave the helm, and let your boat be shaken as long as the killer whales want. Above all, do not approach the group.
(Image: Daniel Kuruvilla / Unsplash)
There have been no serious injuries among those trapped by the killer whales, but the boats have been seriously damaged. Rudder breakage is the most common. The area around Cape Trafalgar (pictured) was one of the hot spots for the attacks.
The orca is traditionally known as a "killer whale." This is absolutely unjustified though. They are peaceful animals. Biologists insist that the events in the Strait of Gibraltar cannot be regarded as attacks and that the animals do not want to eat humans or anything like that.
(Image: Rémi Boudousquié / Unsplash)
Coordinated attacks by orcas on white sharks have been observed in the San Francisco Bay. However, these attacks were about sheer survival, biologists claim. They emphasize that human meat does not enter the menu of orcas.
Killer whales usually eat large fish and seals, if there are any in their area.
(Image: Keith Luke / Unsplash)
Orcas, like other whales, are very intelligent animals. They use tricks to hunt, such as pretending that they are stranded on a beach to fool the seals and catch them by surprise. They also gather socially in small groups and play - sometimes with boats...
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A curiosity: male killer whales live, on average, 17 years; female killer whales can get as old as 29. However, there have also been cases of 100-year-old orcas.
(Image: Ryan Stone / Unsplash)
The capture of orcas for confinement in marine parks is a highly debatable practice. Animals that usually move hundreds of kilometers a day through the sea are suddenly locked into swimming pools. Their brain suffers, which sometimes causes them to attack their caretakers.
The Spanish maritime authorities saw no other solution for the orca "visits" than to prohibit sailing or motor boats of less than 15 metres in the Strait of Gibraltar. They also forbade anchoring outside marked areas. Biologists argue that the boom of recreational boating in the south of Spain, as in other places in the world, may be hindering the original inhabitants of the sea. It's best to leave the families of orcas in peace.
(Image: Mike Doherty / Unsplash)