Couple "Petrified" After Killer Whales Attack Their Yacht
They spotted a pod of orcas.
Whales are often depicted, at least from the human perspective, as beautiful and majestic residents of the sea. But a British couple had a different experience: They were almost chased off their yacht by a fleet of orcas, otherwise known as killer whales. Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell were on their second day of a weeklong sailing class off the coast of Morocco when they spotted a pod of orcas. They were "initially amazed" by the sighting, they told the UK Times. But soon the whales began attacking their yacht—bumping their bodies against the 46-foot-long boat—so vigorously that the couple considered fleeing the ship in a life raft. Read on to find out what happened.
The couple was awakened from a nap in the afternoon of May 2 by sounds of banging on the ship and crew members shouting: "Orcas! Orcas!" "I couldn't believe it when I saw them," Morris told the Times. "It's extremely rare. We were sitting ducks. We were amazingly calm but underneath we were thinking, 'Oh my god'. [But] because everyone was calm, it felt OK." But the feeling of calm didn't last long.
As the assault from the orcas continued, "we were petrified," said Morris. "It wasn't until afterwards that we talked about being very scared. We got our valuables and our passports and talked about getting the life raft ready. It really didn't help that conditions were bad before the orcas. The boat was moving around a lot." The ship encountered the whales seven miles from Tangier in the Strait of Gibraltar, which is often referred to as "orca alley" because of the number of killer whales spotted there, the Telegraph reports.
"We all remained calm because we were aware that if any of us got anxious, it would be infectious," said Bidwell. "We were able to do that because the skipper was so calm. Orcas enjoy the thrill of the chase, so ideally we'd have kept still. But that wasn't possible because of the winds." The crew determined that the orcas seemed to be chasing pieces of debris under the boat. After an hour, they gave up their pursuit. Soon after that, the boat's engine failed and the crew headed back to port. When they arrived, they realized the orcas had been chasing pieces of the ship's rudder.
There have been more than 100 reports of whales attacking ships in the area, a situation that has confounded scientists. They think the application of black paint to ships and yachts to prevent the growth of marine organisms may be the cause. Orcas mean business: In February, shocking video showed a group of killer whales attacking two gray whales off the coast of Monterey Bay, California. For over five hours, more than 30 orcas encircled the adult whales, trying to eat them alive.
The California Killer Whale Project (CKWP) said it was the first documented time in 31 years that killer whales have attempted to attack adult gray whales in Monterey Bay. Gray whales can grow up to 49 feet long and weigh up to 90,000 pounds, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says. "Very very very unusual to see this kind of predatory behavior in wild mammals," said one internet commenter. "I wonder if sea pollution and chemicals in the oceans are affecting the biochemistry health and behavior of killer whales. It doesn't sound like standard normal orca behavior either."