Astonishing moment killer whale rips off yacht’s rudder with its teeth


This is the terrifying moment an orca whale circles a high-end yacht before savagely tearing off its rudder – leaving the boat’s crew adrift off the coast of Gibraltar.

The vessel, a 48-foot catamaran, was attacked during a delivery voyage, with footage showing the whale biting off part of the boat which is crucial for steering.

The captain of the Bali 4.8, who has experienced orca attacks in the area before, said he noticed the ‘unusual motion of the boat’ before seeing a pod of four or five orcas emerge.

Czech skipper Daniel Kriz, 61, said: ‘My first reaction was: “Please! Not again”.’

Dan described the feeling of helplessness when he realised the mighty beasts were homing in on his yacht. 

‘I advised my crew to be calm. Don’t interact with the orcas. There is not much one can do. They are very powerful and smart. ‘

The moment an orca whale began circling a yacht off the coast of Gibraltar was caught on camera

The moment an orca whale began circling a yacht off the coast of Gibraltar was caught on camera

The captain said he was among the first to have his boat attacked in the bizarre phenomenon back in 2020, when eight orcas surrounded him and pushed the boat for around an hour.

They broke off his rudder then, leaving his boat needing to be towed. Now, he says, the orca attacks have become even more sophisticated. 

‘The first time we could hear them communicating under the boat. This time they were quiet and didn’t take them that long to destroy both rudders.

‘Looks like they knew exactly what they are doing. They didn’t touch anything else.

‘After about 15 minutes they left, and we started motoring in the direction to Barbate. 

‘Suddenly one big adult Orca started chasing us. In a couple of minutes, she was under the boat and that was when we realized there was still a little piece of fiberglass left and she wanted to finish the job. After that we didn’t see them anymore.’

Dan and his crew had to use the boat’s motors to steer themselves into a nearby harbour, where they were marooned for 10 days while they waited for new rudders to be delivered.

The cost of replacing the rudders on the roughly £700,000 boat came in at around £2,000, he said. 

The footage from April, shared by yacht sales company Catamaran Guru, gives incredible insight into the mammals’ sheer power and intelligence, as experts have debated whether their behaviour is aggressive or playful.

Orca attacks on boats are becoming increasingly common in the area off Spain’s south coast, putting more and more boats and crews at risk.

The orca then disappears under the boat, with the captain describing the 'unusual motion' it caused

The orca then disappears under the boat, with the captain describing the ‘unusual motion’ it caused

The whale emerges with what appears to be a piece of the boat's rudder - which crew found later was entirely ripped off

The whale emerges with what appears to be a piece of the boat’s rudder – which crew found later was entirely ripped off

The number of vessels rescued by Spain‘s Salvamento Maritimo has almost doubled so far this year compared to the whole of 2022 – with 24 sailing vessels towed in the straits of Gibraltar.

Approximately sixty orcas live in Spanish waters, with a concentration off the Galician coast and in the Strait of Gibraltar, where the majority of recent attacks have taken place. 

Experts are hoping that by tracking killer whales with GPS tags they will be able to prevent these attacks.

Dan explained how all the methods he has so far seen for warding off the marine animals have been unsuccessful.

‘There are so many opinions on how to avoid or scare off orcas. First time in 2020 Spanish authorities advised to sail offshore. 

‘This time everybody recommends closer to shore. Pingers don’t work. Bags of sand and flares have been used. 

‘Even if you can see them before they see you is not much you can do.’

The whale appears to play with the piece of fibreglass, almost taunting the crew who are filming the encounter

The whale appears to play with the piece of fibreglass, almost taunting the crew who are filming the encounter

The footage, shared by yacht sales company Catamaran Guru, gives incredible insight into the mammals' sheer power and intelligence

The footage, shared by yacht sales company Catamaran Guru, gives incredible insight into the mammals’ sheer power and intelligence

A British sailor, whose boat was attacked last week, said the scale of the attacks ‘is way larger than people have thought’.

Iain Hamilton revealed how killer whales threw his yacht around ‘like a rag doll’  off the coast of Gibraltar.

The captain, 60, was left marooned in a harbour for a few days after his boat, the Butey of the Clyde, was wrecked with both rudders taken off by a pod of five whales.

He said the orcas staged a ‘choreographed’ assault on the boat, but he believes they were ‘playing with the rudders, and just inadvertently rendering the boat very vulnerable and in a very dangerous situation’.

Another British sailor, April Boyes, recounted her terror at being surrounded by killer whales who attacked a boat she was delivering from the Azores to Gibraltar last month.

The group of predators is seen surrounding the vessel off the coast of Gibraltar before repeatedly slamming into the yacht in an attack that destroyed the rudder and pierced the hull

The group of predators is seen surrounding the vessel off the coast of Gibraltar before repeatedly slamming into the yacht in an attack that destroyed the rudder and pierced the hull

A four-member crew were eventually able to breathe a sigh of relief as a Spanish rescue vessel and helicopter raced towards them in the middle of the night

A four-member crew were eventually able to breathe a sigh of relief as a Spanish rescue vessel and helicopter raced towards them in the middle of the night 

British sailor April Boyes told how she endured a night of terror after her yacht was wrecked by killer whales that continuously rammed into the vessel for over an hour off the coast of Spain

British sailor April Boyes told how she endured a night of terror after her yacht was wrecked by killer whales that continuously rammed into the vessel for over an hour off the coast of Spain

Speaking on This Morning, Ms Boyes, 31, described the scary encounter with orcas, who continuously rammed into the vessel for over an hour off the coast of Spain.

It emerged last month that a female killer whale nicknamed White Gladis, thought to have been left traumatised by a collision with a boat, may be responsible for a number of the assaults after she taught other orcas to attack vessels. 

Scientists believe White Gladis is taking revenge on boats by coaching orcas, who have already caused two yachts to sink.

They think a ‘critical moment of agony’ – in which White Gladis may have collided with a vessel or was caught in illegal fishing nets – led to her aggression to boats.

Why do orcas attack boats?

A study in Marine Mammal Science last year concluded that the attacks on small boats follow the same pattern: orcas join in approaching from the stern, disabling the boat by hitting the rudder, and then lose interest.

Experts believe orcas may be teaching others how to pursue and attack boats, having observed a string of ‘coordinated’ strikes in Europe.

Some even think that one orca learned how to stop the boats, and then went on to teach others how to do it.

The sociable, intelligent animals have been responsible for more than 500 interactions with vessels since 2020, with at least three sinking.

It does not appear to be a very useful behaviour, and is not clearly helping their survival chances. 

In fact, Alfredo Lopez, an orca researcher at the Atlantic Orca Working Group, says the critically endangered whales ‘run a great risk of getting hurt’ in attacks.

Dr Luke Rendell, who researches learning and behaviour among marine mammals at the University of St Andrews, agreed the behaviour does not seem to be an evolved adaptation.

Instead, he pointed to ‘short-lived fads’, like carrying dead salmon on their heads – a sign of sociability, but not a desperate bid to survive.

The answer to the boat attacks might lie with White Gladis, an orca with a personal vendetta against boats or people.

Lopez said ‘that traumatised orca is the one that started this behaviour of physical contact’.

‘The orcas are doing this on purpose,’ he told livescience.com. ‘Of course, we don¿t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day.’

Like humans, the orcas have ‘sophisticated learning abilities’ that allow them to digest the behaviour of others and replicate it themselves, a study in peer-reviewed journal Biological Conservation indicates.



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