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Violent Orcas Attack and Sink Boat in Atlantic, Circling the Surviving Crew

“We do not know why these attacks are happening.”

A team of fishermen was subjected to a terrifying attack by orcas off the coast of Portugal last week, almost losing their lives. The French boat was sailing north of Porto when it was surrounded by a pod of killer whales. The whales attacked the boat, causing it to fill with water, flood, and sink into the ocean.

"They came to bite into it several times, until the hull, at the level of the rudder, gave way, and caused a leak in the boat, and then it's sinking," the skipper says. The crew managed to escape on a life raft and are thankful to have escaped unharmed. Here's what video footage of the incident shows. 


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According to the National Maritime Authority, the 12-ft French sailboat had four passengers aboard 14 miles off the coast of Viana Do Castelo in Portugal when the killer whales attacked. The Lisbon Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center received an SOS alert at 12:05 pm on November 1, when the fisherman realized their boat was sinking. This attack is just the latest in a series of bizarre attacks by pods of killer whales off the coasts of Spain and Portugal. Keep reading to learn more and see the video.

Boat Destroyed

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The whales attacked the French boat for 45 minutes, focusing on the rudder. The damage to the boat was so severe it started to flood with water, much to the understandable panic of the fisherman on board. Video footage shows water coming up to their waists as the boat rapidly filled up.

Aggressive Orcas

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"I was at the helm and there was a very big impact against the ship because of five to seven orcas who persisted in attacking the rudder of the boat," says skipper Elliot Boyard. "They came to bite into it several times, until the hull, at the level of the rudder, gave way, and caused a leak in the boat, and then it's sinking."

Escape From the Boat

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The crew managed to escape on a life raft, and were thankful the orcas had disappeared. "There was a little panic that came when we realized we were going to sink," Eliott says. "At that time, we got into the water in the life raft, with the orcas around. But by the time we left the boat, they were no longer there."

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Why Are Whales Attacking Boats?

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Experts are not sure what's provoking the attacks. "Local scientists who have worked with killer whales in this region for more than two decades have had closer looks at incidents, and so far I think it is fair to say that we do not know why these accidents and attacks are happening," says David Lusseau, professor of marine sustainability at the Technical University of Denmark.

"The individual whales seem to engage in the same pattern of attack, focusing on the rudder which can lead to the vessels being immobilized and needing rescue or to tragic situations like the most recent accident where the vessel sunk."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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