A British sailor, Iain Hamilton, found himself stranded in Gibraltar after a distressing encounter with a pod of killer whales. Hamilton recounted his ordeal on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, revealing that five orcas had attacked his yacht. The incident is the latest in a series of killer whale encounters in the area.
Hamilton’s yacht was approximately 20 miles off the coast when he noticed a fin approaching his boat, followed by increasingly forceful bumps. He described a large orca, accompanied by four smaller ones, repeatedly striking the vessel’s rear and attempting to bite the rudder. Shockingly, one of the orcas succeeded in ripping off the first rudder, leaving Hamilton concerned but still capable of steering.
However, the situation deteriorated rapidly when the second rudder was torn away, leaving the sailor without any means of controlling the yacht.
According to Hamilton, the orcas’ behavior seemed more playful than aggressive, as they could have easily destroyed the boat if they had desired to do so. He observed their synchronized movements and likened them to choreographed swimming. The orcas seemed to be toying with the rudders, inadvertently putting the boat in a dangerous predicament.
The aftermath of the attack and the yacht’s return to shore remain unclear. Hamilton highlighted the alarming frequency of orca incidents in the Strait of Gibraltar, citing the Atlantic Orca Working Group’s research, which recorded 20 such occurrences in the past month alone.
In a previous incident covered by Insider, a pod of orcas rammed another yacht in the same area. April Boyes, who was on board during the incident, recounted the event on her blog, describing the destruction of the rudder and the boat filling with water.
Researchers are currently investigating the reasons behind the escalating number of killer whale attacks on boats near Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. One theory suggests that a traumatized female orca from a previous encounter could influence the pod’s behavior.