A pod of seven orcas sank a 40-foot French sailboat off Portugal as few days ago by ripping a hole in the hull and swimming off with the rudder. The crew of four had to abandon ship in their life raft. They were rescued by a nearby boat and a Portuguese life-saving vessel.
The men said the orcas attacked their boat for about 45 minutes before it sank. They said the orcas circled the boat, named Smousse, and at first just bumped it. They said the orcas then attacked so fiercely that they shook the boat until they heard a loud noise aft.
The orca’s jaw were strong enough to crack the hull. One of the men went aft and realized it was filling with water. They put out a Mayday call and stood on the cabin top as the boat started to sink about 14 miles west of Viana do Castelo, which is a bit north of Porto. The orcas left after they had completely ripped the rudder off the boat; one of them swam away with the rudder in its mouth.
A nearby Swedish boat rescued the crew. No one was injured, but their boat sank. A search and rescue team from the Viana do Castelo Lifestation arrived to help.
Orcas have been attacking boats for the past two areas, primarily off the coast of Spain and Portugal, but as far south at Tangiers and up to the southern coast of France. Even marine biologists do not have a clear explanation for the attacks.
Some say the attacks are by juvenile orcas who are sowing their oats, or who are making copy-cat attacks. Others say the orcas attack the rudders of boats, particularly sailboats, because they resemble tails, and the orcas think if they can destroy the tail they can destroy the body of the sailboat or leave it floating without direction. And some say the orcas might attack because one of their pod was hit or injured by a boat.
In any event, orcas are highly intelligent mammals. They’re also the largest member of the dolphin family. They are easily recognizable because of their black-and-white bodies. Males grow to 25 feet or so and can weigh more than four tons; they can swim 35 mph. They are called killer whales because they are known to attack whales. Read more: