Killer Whales’ 45-Minute Assault Sinks Polish Yacht in Nightmare Encounter

In a bizarre and increasingly frequent occurrence, killer whales, or orcas, have been assaulting boats, particularly yachts, off the coasts of Spain and Morocco.

These encounters have recently taken a more alarming turn, with one Polish yacht falling victim to a 45-minute assault by a pod of orcas, CBS News reports, leading to its tragic sinking. The incident raises questions about the motives behind these attacks and their impact on sailors.

Research areas with known orca presence before venturing out to sea.
Photo: Pexels
Research areas with known orca presence before venturing out to sea.

The Grazie Mamma II’s Fateful Encounter

The “Grazie Mamma II,” a yacht owned and operated by the Polish tour company Morskie Mile, was embarked on a journey through the Strait of Gibraltar. This narrow waterway connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, serving as a vital maritime route. However, what should have been a routine voyage turned into a harrowing ordeal when a pod of orcas zeroed in on the yacht.

The orcas, ranging up to 30 feet in length, relentlessly attacked the yacht’s steering fin for a staggering 45 minutes, reports Insider. The prolonged assault inflicted severe damage, eventually causing the vessel to take on water.

The crew members, fortunately, escaped unharmed, but their yacht met a tragic end, sinking near the entrance to the port of Tanger-Med, a significant port complex in Morocco, reports The Washington Post.

Sudden course changes or erratic behavior can startle orcas.
Photo: Pexels
Sudden course changes or erratic behavior can startle orcas.

A Mysterious Phenomenon

These relentless and puzzling attacks by orcas on boats have become increasingly frequent in recent years, leaving experts and sailors alike baffled.

According to CBS, between July and November 2020, the research group GTOA recorded 52 interactions between orcas and boats in the region, with the number of incidents surging in the subsequent years. In 2021, there were 197 interactions, and in 2022, a staggering 207 interactions were documented. Sailboats, in particular, appear to be the primary targets of these marine mammals.

Marine experts and scientists have offered various theories to explain these peculiar occurrences. Some speculate that the orcas may be responding to past traumas, while others believe they are engaging in what can only be described as “playful” behavior.

As Maritime Executive repots, these behaviors involve the whales slamming sailboat rudders, leading to boats spinning around. Another theory suggests that these orcas may be seeking revenge for an earlier injury to one of their pod members by a vessel.

Reducing speed when in orca territory helps prevent collisions.
Photo: Pexels
Reducing speed when in orca territory helps prevent collisions.

Impact on Sailors and Yacht Owners

The orca attacks have left sailors and yacht owners shaken but mostly unharmed, as there has been no documented case of a human fatality resulting from such encounters. Nevertheless, the loss of boats and damage caused by these attacks can be distressing for those who enjoy their time at sea.

Morskie Mile, the Polish tour company, expressed its deep attachment to the Grazie Mamma II. Despite the loss, the company remains committed to continuing its cruises, including upcoming trips to the Canary Islands, Newsweek reports.

Look for cues like dorsal fins or breaches to spot orcas from a distance.
Photo: Pexels
Look for cues like dorsal fins or breaches to spot orcas from a safe distance.

“This yacht was the most wonderful thing in maritime sailing for all of us,” a statement from the tour operator said. “Longtime friendships formed on board. We sailed on this yacht around the most beautiful places in Europe and the Atlantic archipelagos, trained numerous sea stewards, discovered the beautiful and the unknown, tasted Mediterranean specialties and sailed, sailed, sailing. Very good memories will be transferred to Grazie Mamma II. Love of the sea always wins and friendships remain with us.”

The increasing frequency of killer whale attacks on boats, especially yachts, off the coasts of Spain and Morocco, is a perplexing and worrying phenomenon for tourists and sailors alike. While experts speculate about the motives behind these attacks, the enigma surrounding this behavior remains unsolved. Sailors and yacht owners continue to navigate the seas with a sense of trepidation, knowing that their marine adventures may involve unexpected encounters with these formidable marine creatures.

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