Orcas have gone after more boats in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Those Strait of Gibraltar orcas are at it again.
Orcas off the stretch of Spanish coast, who in recent times have become known for ramming yachts and other vessels, recently had a go at boats competing in The Ocean Race. Two race teams, Team JAJO and Mirpuri Trifork Racing, both reported being approached by orcas at around the same time on Thursday. The orcas pushed up against the boats, nudged or bit at the rudders and in at least once instance rammed the boats. But both teams reported to race control that there were no injuries.
“Twenty minutes ago we got hit by some orcas,” said Team JAJO skipper Jelmer van Beek after the incident, according to the Ocean Race. “Three orcas came straight at us and started hitting the rudders. Impressive to see the orcas, beautiful animals, but also a dangerous moment for us as a team. We took down the sails and slowed down the boat as quickly as possible and luckily after a few attacks they went away… This was a scary moment.”
This encounter was relatively peaceful, but orcas in the area have recently puzzled scientists with increasingly aggressive behavior. In May, they sank their third boat in three weeks. At that time, Alfredo López, an orca researcher at the Atlantic Orca Working Group, told Scientific American that the orcas are exhibiting a “ rare behavior that has only been detected in this part of the world.”
He gave two hypotheses. One, it’s a kind of new fad among orcas, something frequently begun by juveniles in the dolphin family. (Orcas are the largest species in the dolphin family.) The other hypothesis, he said, is that the behavior is in response to a past encounter with a boat.
Much of the speculation has centered on an orca who has come to be known as White Gladis. Researchers note that she was involved in initial incidents, and there has been speculation that she is teaching other orcas how to attack boats. However the fact that humans have come away from the encounters unharmed leads some researchers to believe the orcas have no harmful intent.
“They are incredibly curious and playful animals and so this might be more of a play thing as opposed to an aggressive thing,” Deborah Giles, a University of Washington professor and researcher for the non-profit Wild Orca, told science website Live Science.