Orcas are beautiful creatures, even inspiring the likes of beloved family films like Free Willy. But not all of these animals are nice when it comes to the boats making their way through the waters they call home. Recently killer whales have begun attacking boats in coordinated efforts which have even led three boats to sink after run-ins with Orca pods. The latest attack was even caught on video.
The reason for the attacks is still a bit baffling, but scientists say their best guess is tied to an orca named Gladis, who has been leading the charge of new behavior. Experts say that Gladis must have experienced some kind of traumatic experience, like running into a boat or even getting caught in fishing nets, which triggered the first wave of attacks.
Because orcas are social creatures, they easily pick up behavior from other orcas they encounter, which has led many killer whales around Europe to start attacking boats. The attacks come in the form of rammings, which not only risk the boats themselves but also put the animals at risk of head injuries. Scientists say that Gladis continues to teach the local population how to attack, even tutoring younger whales.
The prospect of killer whales attacking boats might seem silly, especially given how gentle these creatures have always come across. But, there’s a reason that some of the ocean’s mightiest predators – the great white shark – absolutely fear the orca. And now it seems humanity is getting a taste of the aggressiveness that these creatures can show.
The really disturbing truth here is that this continued learning could spread to other whale populations around the world, and we could end up with a proper war between killer whales and boats just making their way through the water. Further, being out on a boat and hearing a cry for “orcas!” as a warning has to feel surreal.
The latest attack occurred on May 2, when a yacht sailing in the Strait of Gibraltar ran afoul of a pod of orcas. The yacht was carrying passengers Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell. The couple managed to capture the experience of the killer whales attacking the boat on video, giving us all a good view of the tactics these creatures are taking to harass human boats straying too close.
While the orcas didn’t sink this particular boat, they did leave it limping its way back to shore, with extensive damage worth thousands of dollars, The Telegraph reports.