Raging killer whales are launching terrifying 'orchestrated' attacks on boats injuring sailors – and no one knows why

SCIENTISTS have been left confused by a series of incidents in which killer whales have hit sailing boats along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.

In some cases, boats have been damaged and at least one crew member suffered bruising from the impact of the ramming.

Two boats also lost parts of their rudders due to the impact of the attacks, according to reports.

Incidents have been reported in several locations, including one just off A Coruña, on the northern coast of Spain, on Friday afternoon.

Pete Green, managing director of Halcyon Yachts, told The Guardian a boat was being taken to the UK when an orca rammed its stern at least 15 times.

As a consequence of the impact, the vessel lost steering and was towed into port to assess damage.


A similar incident happened near Vigo, northwest Spain, at the end of August, when sailors alerted the coastguard to say their boat was “under attack” from killer whales.

On the same day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with orcas under the stern.

On July 29, a boat was surrounded by nine orcas off Cape Trafalgar, in the south-west of Spain.

The killer whales rammed the hull for over one hour, spinning the boat 180 degrees, disabling the engine and breaking the rudder, as they communicated with loud whistling, The Guardian reports.

Victoria Morris, who was crewing the vessel, said the attack felt “totally orchestrated”.

Researchers studying a small population in the Strait of Gibraltar said killer whales are normally curious and it is common that they follow a boat closely, possibly interacting with the rudder.

However, scientists noted orcas would not normally use the force seen in these attacks.

The Spanish maritime authorities warned vessels to “keep a distance”, but sailors said this could be difficult.

It is not clear why these incidents are happening, but some scientists believe it might indicate stress in a population that is endangered.

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are the largest member of the dolphin family.

Though they do not typically attack humans, their name refers to the mammal's ability to take down large marine animals, such as sea lions and whales, according to Live Science.

To hunt, killer whales use their massive teeth, which can grow up to 4 inches (10cm) long.  

Killer whales are mainly found in the open ocean, but can also be in coastal waters.

Orcas are known to attack great white sharks too, consuming their oil-rich livers, says National Geographic.

According to SeaWorld, it is difficult to know the number of killer whales given their worldwide distribution, but it is estimated that there are about 50,000.

Listed as endangered since 2005, the orcas' population has been declining over the years.

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