Killer whales continue to clash with boats off the coast of Europe, apparently sinking two sailboats
Several sailors off the coast of Europe have found themselves too close to be comfortable with killer whales, which have been making a bit of noise in the area lately.
NPR reported that two boats were reportedly sunk by the animals off the coast of Portugal last month, with other vessels having to be towed to port after killer whales destroyed their rudders.
According to NPR, scientists believe these interactions occur because whales seem to relish the water pressure released by boat rudders. When stationary, the animals can become frustrated, which leads to their destructive actions, according to Renaud de Stephanis, president and coordinator of CIRCE Conservación Information and Research (a cetacean research group based in Spain).
Earlier this month, Ester Kristine Storkson and her father experienced one of the most dramatic incidents on record – and one of the farthest from where it happened more recently.
Storkson was sleeping on her father’s small yacht off the coast of France when she woke up with a start. She found several killer whales circling the boat, with the steering wheel swinging rapidly and spinning the boat in the opposite direction, NPR reported.
The woman said the animals were “ramming the boat” and explained that “they [hit] us several times… giving us the impression that it was a coordinated attack.”
She said that after about 15 minutes the orcas left, and she and her father assessed what had happened. After submerging a Go-Pro in water, they realized that “about three-quarters of the [the rudder] was broken, and metal was bent.”
The father-daughter couple had had enough of the rudder to get back to shore, but it delayed their plans to sail around the world.
Scientists had been working on the idea that only a few animals were involved in these incidents, NPR said, noting that they were social creatures that often followed their own “patterns” of activities they participated in and ended up get tired or grow. .
An interactive map curated by iberian killer whale, a conservation group working with killer whales in the Iberian Peninsula, shows more than a dozen examples of animal interactions with boats this month, most of which were clustered off the northwest coast from Spain. The Storksons episode seems to indicate that more than one pod may be responsible for these behaviors.
The organization said that, as the whales appear to be moving north, particularly near the Galicia region, they advise the public against “navigating this area at night to reduce the risk and difficulty of rescue”.
NPR also noted that while the animals can be aggressive in these incidents, it is “no trace of an orca killing a human in the wild”.