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Scientists baffled by orcas ramming sailing boats near Spain and Portugal

Somerville

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Scientists baffled by orcas ramming sailing boats near Spain and Portugal

Scientists have been left baffled by incidents of orcas ramming sailing boats along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.

In the last two months, from southern to northern Spain, sailors have sent distress calls after worrying encounters. Two boats lost part of their rudders, at least one crew member suffered bruising from the impact of the ramming, and several boats sustained serious damage.

The latest incident occurred on Friday afternoon just off A Coruña, on the northern coast of Spain. Halcyon Yachts was taking a 36ft boat to the UK when an orca rammed its stern at least 15 times, according to Pete Green, the company’s managing director. The boat lost steering and was towed into port to assess damage.

On 30 August, a French-flagged vessel radioed the coastguard to say it was “under attack” from killer whales. Later that day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with orcas under the stern.
(. . .)
On 29 July, off Cape Trafalgar, Victoria Morris was crewing a 46ft delivery boat that was surrounded by nine orcas. The cetaceans rammed the hull for over an hour, spinning the boat 180 degrees, disabling the engine and breaking the rudder, as they communicated with loud whistling.
(. . .)
At 11.30 the previous night, British couple Beverly Harris and Kevin Large’s 40ft yacht was brought to a sudden halt, then spun several times; Harris felt the boat “raise a little”.

Earlier that evening, Nick Giles was motorsailing alone when he heard a horrific bang “like a sledgehammer”, saw his wheel “turning with incredible force”, disabling the steering as his 34ft Moody yacht spun 180 degrees. He felt the boat lift and said he was pushed around without steering for 15 minutes.

It is not known if all the encounters involve the same pod but it is probable.
 

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