Boat Captain Says Killer Whales That Attacked Ship Twice ‘Knew Exactly What They Are Doing’

The first time a pod of orcas left the captain and his crew stranded on their vessel was in 2020.

Francois Gohier / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Run-ins with orcas have been leaving boats stranded.

One captain told Newsweek that a pod of killer whales ambushed his boat—an incident that’s occurred not once, but twice. Dan Kriz told the publication the first encounter took place in 2020, when he and his crew were transporting a yacht through the Strait of Gibraltar, between Spain and Morocco.

"I was surrounded with a pack of eight orcas, pushing the boat around for about an hour," Kriz said. He described the ship’s rudder as being so impaired that they had to be towed to a nearby marina. He also said he’s one of the first to experience these “very unusual” acts by orcas.

It then happened again, with Kriz explaining that the second time seemed more intentional. He was maneuvering a boat near the Canary Islands in April when he thought his vessel had collided with a wave. He soon knew it was something more when the boat was hit again.

"My first reaction was, 'Please! Not again,'" Kraz recalled. "There is not much one can do. They are very powerful and smart." 

In a clip from the incident, the killer whales are “biting off both rudders” and one orca has a piece of the rudder in its mouth.

During the first encounter, Kriz and his crew could hear the animals communicating with each other; this time around, they were “quiet,” he said. “It didn't take them that long to destroy both rudders,” he continued. “Looks like they knew exactly what they are doing. They didn't touch anything else." 

The attack was around 15 minutes long. The crew then set sail once again for Spain, when one of the whales came back.

"Suddenly, one big adult orca started chasing us. In a couple of minutes, she was under the boat, and that was when we realized there was still a little piece of fiberglass left and she wanted to finish the job," Kriz said. "After that, we didn't see them anymore."

According to studies by the orca research group GTOA, these types of situations have nearly quadrupled recently. In 2020, only 52 interactions were recorded, with that number rising to 207 in 2022.

Just days ago, a sailor reported an encounter with several whales that destroyed the rudders on his vessel. The incident also took place in the Strait of Gibraltar region, with the man, Iain Hamilton, telling BBC Radio 4 that “a very large whale” was “pushing along the back of the boat, trying to bite the rudder.”

He said the whales were repeatedly “bumping it” and “pushed us around like a rag doll.”

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