Orca That Sunk Boat With Family on Board Rammed Another Vessel Within Hours

A group of orcas that attacked and sunk a sailboat off the coast of Portugal targeted another boat within hours.

On July 31, orcas targeted a sailboat with five people on board. The sailboat had been about six miles off the coast of Sines when the giant mammals attacked, according to a statement from the Portuguese Navy.

The boat was so badly damaged it started to sink. The five crew members were then rescued by a nearby fishing vessel and were able to go aboard a lifeboat, before they were escorted back to shore.

It has now emerged that another orca attack occurred on the same day.

Orca
A stock photo shows an orca. There have been increased attacks off the coast of Spain and Portugal. Musat/Getty

The second instance involved a small sailboat with two passengers aboard. The two passengers had been sleeping when the orcas charged at the boat, the Correio da Manhã reported.

The orcas targeted the boats rudder, biting it until it broke. The boat had to be escorted by another back to the dock.

These attacks have not been the only ones to occur in the area.

Orcas often come to the coast of Portugal and Spain during the summer months, to feed on the tuna that live around the Gibraltar Strait. Although fearsome predators to other marine wildlife, they rarely attack humans outside of captivity.

Since 2020 however, instances of orcas targeting boats has become more common. In recent days, so many instances of orcas approaching boats occurred off the coast of Spain, that sailors were advised to stay in port at night time.

It is not entirely clear why orcas are targeting the boats, however most experts do not believe it is an act of aggression.

"I can only speculate as to why, but my hunch is that this is a cultural fad, an idiosyncratic behaviour that has developed socially in a specific group of whales, that has its roots in play, and possibly a history of undocumented and less dramatic interactions that has developed into this current problematic behaviour," Luke Rendell, a reader in biology at the University of St Andrews and marine mammal expert, told Newsweek.

"For a couple of years, for example, off Washington State in the U.S., some groups of killer whales engaged in carrying dead salmon, for no obvious purpose, and then stopped."

Rendell said it is possible the orcas have learned this behavior in the past couple years—as attacks appeared to be on the rise—although he suspects it started before that.

"I have heard first-hand accounts of killer whale approaching a boat in that region several years prior, so I suspect it developed over a longer period," he said.

Orcas are playful creatures and will sometimes approach boats out of curiosity, or as a game. However, male orcas can sometimes grow up to 26 feet, and weigh 12,000 pounds, meaning their "games" can be frightening and dangerous.