A British sailor has told how she experienced a night of terror after her yacht was wrecked off the coast of Spain for over an hour by orca whales who kept ramming the ship.
A video shared by April Boyes, 31, shows a group of orcas concentrating on the yacht before attacking it with a heart-wrenching bang, prompting one crew member to scream in fear.
Yesterday the group of predators said to have been ‘taught’ to attack ships by a female killer whale named White Gladis were seen surrounding the yacht off the coast of Gibraltar before repeatedly crashing into them.
Boyes is heard shaking, “Jesus, oh my God,” as each blow damages the boat, eventually destroying the rudder and piercing the hull. “It’s like they’re biting it apart,” says the sailor in the video.
Attacks became more frequent in terrifying scenes where the predators were now invisible under cover of darkness. A distraught male crew member is heard telling the Spanish authorities: “We need help immediately, we’re sinking, we’re sinking.”
A video shared by April Boyes, 31, shows a group of orcas concentrating on the yacht before attacking it with a heart-wrenching bang, causing one crew member to scream in fear
The group of predators is seen surrounding the ship off the coast of Gibraltar before repeatedly crashing into the yacht in an attack, destroying the rudder and piercing the hull
A separate sailing boat was damaged by killer whales in a port in Barbate on May 24 off the coast of southern Spain
British sailor April Boyes has told how she experienced a scary night after her yacht was wrecked off the coast of Spain for over an hour by orca whales who kept ramming the ship
During the attack, a crew member can be seen with a flashlight on his head, desperately trying to use a bucket to empty the rising water from the ship’s engine room.
The crew of four finally breathed a sigh of relief when a Spanish rescue ship and helicopter swooped down on them in the middle of the night.
Ms Boyes said of the horrific ordeal: “What started out as a seemingly unique encounter ended with orcas snapping our oar off the boat and then ripping pieces off the boat for an hour.”
“A huge hole in the gull meant water was seeping into other parts of the boat and engine room and I can honestly say it was a scary experience.” “We’re all safe, I’m grateful to the coastguard.”
The crew were rescued by the Coast Guard and the 66-foot British-flagged vessel was towed to the port of Barbate in Cadiz province for repairs.
The incident follows at least 20 orca attacks on small vessels in the Strait of Gibraltar this month alone.
And this week it emerged that a female killer whale named White Gladis, who is believed to have been traumatized by a collision with a boat, has been teaching other orcas to attack ships around Gibraltar.
A crew member, carrying a flashlight on his head, desperately tries to drain the rising water from the ship’s engine room
The crew of four finally breathed a sigh of relief when a Spanish rescue ship and helicopter swooped down on them in the middle of the night
Scientists believe White Gladis is taking revenge on boats by training orcas that have already sank two yachts.
They believe a “critical moment of agony” – during which White Gladis may have collided with a ship or been caught in illegal fishing nets – led to her aggression towards boats.
As the ringleader teaches other killer whales how to ram yachts, sailors may fear future orca attacks.
And yesterday’s attack shows there is no sign of killer whales giving up their pursuit of smaller vessels.
OOn May 2, about six orcas reportedly rammed the hull of a Bavaria 46 cruiser yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar.
The ambush lasted about an hour and left a Cambridge couple in shock and confusion.
Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell, both 58, were on the yacht when they were alerted to the cry of “Orcas!”
Mr. Bidwell told The Telegraph that it was “an experience I will never forget”.
“I kept reminding myself that we had a 22-ton steel boat, but seeing three of them come out of the water at once, fast and at speed with their fins was disheartening.”
“We sat where we were,” added Ms. Morris.
“A significantly larger matriarch was definitely there and almost in charge,” Mr Bidwell said, before speculating it was White Gladis.
The ship’s captain, Greg Blackburn of Leeds, said he had read reports about the matriarch and knew they were on a voyage. He said he dropped the mainsail to make the boat “as dull as possible”.
The group of whales and their gang leader eventually lost interest after causing thousands of pounds of damage.
An orca ambush off the coast of Gibraltar this month lasted about an hour and left a Cambridge couple in shock and confusion
An orca enters a boat sailing near Gibraltar with its fin poking out of the water. “We were sitting on the wrong side,” Janet Morris said of the attack
Researchers believe the female killer whale White Gladis (pictured) is taking revenge on boats by training other orcas that have already sunk two yachts
Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell were on a yacht in Gibraltar this month when they were alerted to the cry of “Orcas!”
This isn’t the first time White Gladis has been suspected of wreaking havoc in the Strait of Gibraltar, the strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
In November last year, a ship off the coast of Viana do Castelo, Portugal, was attacked by orcas, breaking the hull.
A third boat was attacked and dragged into the water near Gibraltar just two days after the attack, having had its rudder ripped off near the Spanish coast.
This time, two smaller whales rammed the ship, copying the tactics of a larger orca.
Captain Werner Schaufelberger told the German sailing magazine Yacht: “The little ones shook the rudder at the back, while the big one kept going backwards and rammed the ship from the side with full force.”
‘T“The two little orcas observed the technique of the bigger one and – with a slight run-up – they too slammed into the boat.”
The crew was rescued from the damaged boat, but the ship eventually sank in Barbate Harbour.
Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and a member of the Atlantic Orca Working Group, said the attacks were likely the result of past trauma.
“This traumatized orca is the one that triggered this behavior of physical contact with the boat,” he said.
A “critical moment of agony” made White Gladis aggressive towards boats – and this is now being taught and copied by other orcas, the biologist told Live Science.
Orcas are considered sociable creatures and can therefore easily learn from each other. Other scientists suggest the attacks could be due to the orcas becoming territorial or just wanting to play.
These attacks are becoming more common. In September 2022, authorities in Spain banned ships from exiting the north-west tip due to 29 reported orca attacks.