- A video shows the moment sailors on a boat in the Strait of Gibraltar fought off a pod of orcas.
- Crew members desperately tried to scare the giant whales away but were still left without a rudder.
- An expert told Insider that while these incidents have been going on since 2020, they’ve got less intense.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
A new video shows the moment sailors aboard a ship in the Straits of Gibraltar fought off a pod of killer whales with poles and flare lights after the giant sea creatures broke off part of the vessel’s rudder.
The incident happened on April 3 off Morocco’s coast of Cape Spartel, when the pod approached the Serena IV sailboat and started ramming its rudder.
The captain of the boat, Antonio Busse, told Real Press that he had been on watch duty that evening when he heard an unfamiliar noise and rushed to the back of the ship, witnessing what he counted to be four orcas.
In the dramatic video footage published by the DailyMail, Busse can be seen using a long pole to hit the side of the boat as well as the water in an attempt to scare the orcas away.
Meanwhile, other crew members are seen desperately throwing items into the water and shouting at the whales, telling them to “get off the boat.”
At one point, the sailor filming the video can be heard shouting: “Look, they hit the wheel a bit! They don’t like the wheel, they always go for the wheel.” The orcas eventually broke off part of the vessel’s rudder.
One crew member eventually lights a red flare and throws it in the water, prompting the whales to swim away.
Despite a partially broken rudder, the boat managed to continue on its journey and anchor in the Spanish port of Tarifa.
Watch the video below:
Busse, who has sailed across the world, said that the incident had been very scary, adding that “something like this had never happened before” in his lifetime, according to the DailyMail.
“I have been in Antarctica and I have never seen something like this,” he said.
The incident is not the first of its kind in the area. In September 2020, the Observer reported that killer whales had been causing damage to more than a dozen boats in the Straits of Gibraltar, in some instances even leaving crew members seriously injured.
Researchers told the Observer that it was not unusual for orcas, which are highly social and curious animals, to follow boats or even playfully interact with them and that ramming the rudder is not unheard of.
However, many were still left scratching their heads as to why some of the incidents were aggressive in nature.
Ruth Esteban, the head of international relations for the Orca Atlantica Working Group, who studies these orcas, told Insider that since last year the interactions have still been happening, but they’ve “not been as intense.” This is partly also because of the season, she added.
The last interaction was on April 1, Esteban said, adding that there has been a lot of activity in the Strait of Gibraltar area.
“We don’t like to call them attacks because it comes across as more playful. We still don’t fully know why they do this but from watching videos of the different interactions, it is obvious they behave differently depending on the speed of the boat or the type of boat,” said Esteban. “When we watch these videos, for us, it doesn’t look like they’re ‘attacks.'”
Esteban also added that although the orcas had scared crew members on ships, they had not yet posed a significant danger to humans.
Wild killer whales have never fatally attacked humans in the ocean. However, there have been cases of captive orcas killing or injuring handlers at marine theme parks.