Tales Of Ahab: Killer Whales Are Now Ramming, Sinking Boats

Tourists in a sailboat view an orca which rises above the water in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between north coastal Washington and Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Stuart Westmorland/Getty Images

An apex predator is an animal that has no natural predators and sits at the top of their food chain. Animals that qualify are lions, bears, crocodiles, giant constrictor snakes, wolves, sharks, and, of course, humans (unless they get attacked by any one of those other apex predators).

Another animal at the top of its food chain is the orca, also known as the killer whale. They can grow to 26 feet and weigh up to 22,000 pounds, have a maximum speed of 35 mph, live 90 years or more and have a bite force of 19,000 psi (nearly five times that of a great white shark) with 56 three-inch-long teeth.

And they’re smart: “Orcas are some of the most sophisticated pack hunters in the world,” one website wrote. “With their advanced communicative abilities, orcas put other well-known predators that hunt in groups to shame. A pod of orcas can coordinate complicated strategies to isolate, ambush, and disorient prey to ensure an easy kill.”

Now, apparently, they’re coming after us. Reports have emerged that orcas are attacking boats, like this one in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Several reports say a killer whale called Gladis is teaching other orcas to attack yachts and has already struck three boats, sinking two of them. “Researchers believe that a female orca called White Gladis is seeking revenge after being traumatised by a collision with a boat, or being trapped in illegal fishing nets,” one report said.

Gladis’ attacks are being copied by younger whales. “A clearly larger matriarch was definitely around and was almost supervising,” Stephen Bidwell, whose boat was attacked by a pod of orcas, told the Telegraph.

“It’s an experience I will never forget,” Bidwell said. “I kept reminding myself we had a 22-ton boat made of steel, but seeing three of them coming at once, quickly and at pace with their fins out of the water was daunting.”

The attack lasted for more than an hour.

Another hour-long attack left boater April Boyes, 31, in shock — and she captured it all on video.

Boyes said her four-person crew on the 66-foot-long sailboat saw a pod of orcas and turned off the boat’s engine, but the whales began ramming the rudder and smashing into the hull, Yahoo reported. The crew, again traveling through the Strait of Gibraltar, had to call Spanish authorities, who towed the badly damaged boat back to port.

“What started off as a seemingly unique encounter ended with orcas breaking off our rudder from the boat, then proceeding to tear bits off the boat for an hour,” Boyes said.

“A huge hole in the hull meant we had water ingress to other parts of the boat and the engine room and I can honestly say it was a scary experience. We are all safe, I’m feeling grateful for the coast guard,” she said.

A pod of three orcas also attacked and sank another sailboat, breaking its its rudder and piercing its hull. Captain Werner Schaufelberger said he saw the two smaller whales imitating the ramming tactic of the largest orca, the Telegraph reported.

“The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side,” he said. “The two little orcas observed the bigger one’s technique and – with a slight run-up – they, too, slammed into the boat.”

In all, hundreds of incidents between orcas and boats off the coast of Spain have occurred since May 2020, but most have been minor. Now, orcas have learned how to badly damage boats, even sink them.

Marine biologist Alfredo Lopez Fernandez told Live Science that Gladis suffered a “critical moment of agony.” “That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with the boat,” he said.

“We do not interpret that the orcas are teaching the young, although the behavior has spread to the young vertically, simply by imitation, and later horizontally among them, because they consider it something important in their lives,” Fernandez added.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.

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