- A pod of orcas rammed a yacht off the Spanish coast, destroying the rudder and piercing the hull.
- The crew was forced to make a Mayday call for assistance when the boat began to fill with water.
- Sailor April Boyes wrote that everyone is “safe” and urged people not to “demonize” killer whales.
Orcas severely damaged a yacht off the coast of Spain in the latest dramatic encounter between orcas and boats in the region. One of the sailors urged people to stop “‘demonizing” the marine animals.
Earlier this week, a pod of orcas rammed into the Mustique, destroying the yacht’s rudder and piercing the hull. Reuters reported the crew later called Spanish authorities for assistance, a spokesman for the maritime rescue service said.
In a now-deleted Instagram video, one of the sailors on the 60-foot vessel posted footage of the encounter, where she could be heard saying, “It’s like they are biting it apart,” according to The Times. April Boyes, 31, described the orcas “tearing off bits of the boat” for an hour.
In a post on her blog, Boyes wrote a first-hand account of the event — describing the boat filling with water, as the killer whales “completely destroyed” the rudder causing a “gaping hole,” despite the crew trying to distract the animals with “non-harmful deterrents.”
After authorities responded to the crew’s Mayday call with a rapid-response vessel and helicopter assistance, the boat was towed to a port in Spain for repairs, per Reuters.
In an Instagram post on Saturday, Boyes added that interactions with orcas can be “quite terrifying.” But, she said, “As an advocate for marine life and the protection of our oceans, I don’t condone demonizing the orcas.”
Boyes urged that more research into the “beautiful creatures” needs to be done, especially as the attacks are increasingly common.
“As a crew, we are not traumatized and everyone acted in a professional manner, and we were all safe. I am sailing again today, and whilst it was a challenging experience, we have all taken something away from it,” she wrote.
A traumatic event could have triggered the boat attacks
According to GTOA, a research group that tracks populations of the Iberian orca subspecies, at least 20 interactions in the Strait of Gibraltar have been recorded this month, per Reuters. Last year, 207 interactions were reported, GTOA data showed.
Scientists have been examining the recent phenomenon of orcas attacking boats in the Iberian peninsula. One theory suggests that one female orca named White Gladis may have experienced a traumatic event that triggered a change in her behavior to attack sailboats. Other orcas in the area could be imitating her actions, Insider previously reported.
Other experts, however, believe the encounters with the highly-social creatures may just be “playful.”
While many of these interactions are harmless, there have been several instances of orcas sinking boats off the Iberian coast in recent months.