Yacht Sinks After Being Rammed by Orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar, Again

Orca killer whale
Orca killer whale Pixabay

A sailing yacht sunk in the Strait of Gibraltar on Sunday, May 12, after a group of orcas slammed into the vessel with two people on board, causing a water leak, officials said.

Both crew members were rescued by a passing oil tanker, said Spain's maritime rescue service, marking the latest killer whale attack on a boat in what has become a pattern in recent years.

As reported CBS News, the incident took place at around 9 a.m. local time in the narrow strait between Spain and Morocco that has become notorious for human clashes with pods of killer whales that for reasons still unknown, have been ramming into boats and and even sinking them.

Crew Members Reported Feeling Blows to the Hull, Rudder of the Yacht

In this case, crew members on board the SV Alboran Cognac yacht put out an emergency call for an evacuation after they encountered orcas roughly 14 miles off the coast of Cape Spartel.

The crew members reported feeling blows to the hull of the vessel and rudder, which was damaged by the whales, the rescue service said. The agency's coordination center in Tarifa, on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar, helped arrange for their evacuation via the tanker MT Lascaux.

The tanker was able to collect the crew members from the sinking yacht within the hour, and they disembarked in Gibraltar before 10:30 a.m. They abandoned the SV Alboran Cognac, which sank to the bottom of the ocean.

Warning Issued by Maritime Rescue Service, Told to Avoid Certain Areas for Orca Interactions

Anyone sailing through waters from the Gulf of Cádiz in southern Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar, either in a larger motorized vessel or a personal sailing boat, is advised to avoid certain areas that the maritime rescue service marks as potentially dangerous spots for orca interactions.

The greatest threats exist between May and August, when officials say that pods of killer whales are most commonly seen in those parts of the Atlantic. However, there have been incidents that have taken place during other times of the year.

Last October, a Polish boat touring company reported that a pod of orcas had managed to sink one of its yachts after repeatedly slamming into the steering fin for 45 minutes, causing it to leak. Last June, two sailing teams competing in an international race around the world reported frightening scenarios in which multiple orcas rammed into or pushed up against their boats or as they sailed west of Gibraltar.

Researchers Still Trying to Determine Increase in Aggressive Behavior Exhibited by the Orcas

No one on board any of the vessels was hurt in those encounters, but the documented rise in confrontational behavior has researchers and sailors trying to determine why orcas have attempted to sink or capsize so many boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal. Some sailors have even resorted to blasting thrash metal music in a bid to deter the apex predators.