Orcas may sometimes be called “killer whales,” but it’s not because they’re particularly murderous. Their scientific Latin name is Orcinus orca. “Orcinus” is sometimes translated as “killer,” but the word really means “belonging to the kingdom of the dead.” That said, for the last few years orcas have really had it out for humans — or at least for their boats. Numerous instances of orcas attacking and/or sinking aquatic vessels in the Mediterranean and vicinity have been reported over the years. Now here’s another.
As per Insider, a pod of five orcas teamed up to attack a yacht in the strait of Gibraltar. A British sailor, now marooned in the British territory, said that while sailing 20 miles west off the coast, he noticed a fin close to his boat. Soon there were a series of ominous and increasingly jerky bumps.
“There was a very large whale pushing along the back of the boat, trying to bite the rudder,” one Iain Hamilton told BBC Radio 4’s program Today. That was followed by four smaller orca repeatedly bumping against the boat.
They managed to take out one rudder. That was “quite concerning,” said Hamilton. Then they do the same to the second. “We had no mechanism for steering the boat,” Hamilton explained, adding that the orcas “pushed us around like a rag doll.”
That being said, Hamilton described the orcas’ actions as “almost playful,” their movement “choreographed, almost, like synchronized swimming.” He also pointed out that, had they wished to destroy his yacht, they could have.
It’s not yet clear how the incident ended, nor how the yacht managed to get back to shore.
According to the Atlantic Orca Working Group’, there have been at least 20 orca attacks on boats in the region in the last month alone.
But what is causing such a violent uptick in orca-on-boat violence? One report claims that it’s mere “natural curiosity.” But another, more dramatic argument is that a female orca suffered a “critical moment of agony” involving a boat, causing her to not only start attacking vessels but teach others, including her children, to do likewise. If that sounds like a bad Jaws sequel, then know that orcas are unusually intelligent and can teach others certain behaviors.
In the meantime, the 1977 Jaws ripoff Orca, starring Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling, Will Sampson, and Bo Derek, streams on Showtime.