According to experts, it is claimed that whales are educating one another in the technique of capsizing boats, as evident from a recent incident where a group of orcas attacked a British couple while they were on vacation.
Scientists have stated their belief that in 2020, an orca began exhibiting retaliatory behavior towards a boat following a distressing event. As a result, other whales have now started imitating this hazardous conduct.
Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell from Cambridge were enjoying their vacation this week when the incident occurred.
The couple recounted that a portion of the marine mammals began deliberately ramming their boat, persisting with this aggressive behavior for an hour.
Despite the additional challenges posed by strong winds and large waves, the competent crew skillfully maneuvered the vessel towards more tranquil waters, ensuring their safety.
Janet, a 58-year-old business consultant, expressed her astonishment at the sight before her, emphasizing its extreme rarity. She described their vulnerability, stating that they were like sitting ducks.
Despite appearing remarkably composed on the surface, Janet admitted that underneath, they were overwhelmed with thoughts of disbelief. She exclaimed, “Oh my god,” reflecting their inner turmoil.
Janet shared that the collective calmness of everyone aboard provided a sense of reassurance, although deep down, they were petrified. It was only after the ordeal that they openly discussed the intense fear they had experienced.
Taking precautions, they gathered their valuable belongings, including passports, and prepared the life raft for any emergency.
Adding to the already challenging circumstances, the weather conditions were unfavorable even before the encounter with the orcas. The boat’s unsteady movements made it difficult to discern the exact cause of their distress.
However, the captain’s composed and methodical demeanor played a pivotal role in maintaining order and ensuring everyone’s well-being.
Stephen, a 58-year-old photographer, acknowledged the importance of remaining calm, as they were aware that anxiety could easily spread among the group. He attributed their collective composure to the captain’s unwavering tranquility.
‘Orcas enjoy the thrill of the chase, so ideally we’d have kept still, but that wasn’t possible because of the winds.’
According to a study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, there has been a significant rise in reports of aggressive encounters with orcas off the Iberian coast since May 2020.
These attacks seem to primarily target sailing boats, following a consistent pattern where the orcas approach swiftly from the back and then target the rudder.
Researchers speculate that this behavior could be learned and transmitted among young orcas. Alfredo López Fernández, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and co-author of the study, explained, “The orcas are intentionally doing this. While we do not know the exact origin or motivation, the hypothesis of defensive behavior based on trauma gains more credibility each day.”
Janet and Stephen, both experienced sailors qualified to navigate and captain sailing boats, were in the middle of a week-long course to accumulate sailing miles when they encountered the orcas on Tuesday, May 2, merely seven miles from Tangier.
It was their second day of the course, and they were resting, preparing for their night-watch duty, when they suddenly felt a series of thuds against the hull and heard crew members urgently shouting, “Orcas! Orcas!” Startled, they quickly made their way to the deck.
At a certain point during the assault, the crew observed the orcas, estimated to be a group of at least six, eagerly pursuing debris in the water that resembled sponges.
After an hour, the orcas ceased their pursuit, but the boat’s steering had been compromised, prompting the crew to navigate back to shore.
Upon returning to the harbor, they discovered that the debris they had witnessed was actually fragments from the rudder of their 46-foot Bavaria sailing yacht.
Janet expressed that they will have another opportunity to complete the course, stating, “We were on the course to get experience, and we’ll know what to do if this happens again.”
The Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Europe and Africa, has earned the nickname “orca alley” due to the substantial population of whales in the area. Previous incidents of whale attacks on boats have been reported in this region.
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