Monday, September 14, 2020

Orcas Gone Mad

The Guardian:

Scientists have been left baffled by incidents of orcas ramming sailing boats along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.

In the last two months, from southern to northern Spain, sailors have sent distress calls after worrying encounters. Two boats lost part of their rudders, at least one crew member suffered bruising from the impact of the ramming, and several boats sustained serious damage.

The latest incident occurred on Friday afternoon just off A Coruña, on the northern coast of Spain. Halcyon Yachts was taking a 36-ft boat to the UK when an orca rammed its stern at least 15 times, according to Pete Green, the company’s managing director. The boat lost steering and was towed into port to assess damage.

Around the same time there were radio warnings of orca sightings 70 miles south, at Vigo, near the site of at least two recent collisions. On 30 August, a French-flagged vessel radioed the coastguard to say it was “under attack” from killer whales. Later that day, a Spanish naval yacht, Mirfak, lost part of its rudder after an encounter with orcas under the stern.

And more:

In one instance, a 46-foot delivery boat was surrounded by nine orcas off Cape Trafalgar in Spain. The whales, that can weight up to six tons, rammed the boat continuously for one hour, causing it to spin 180 degrees and the engine to shut down, according to crew member Victoria Morris.

Morris told the Observer that the attack, which happened on July 28, felt "totally orchestrated."

"The noise was really scary. They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat," Morris said. "And this deafening noise as they communicated, whistling to each other. It was so loud that we had to shout."

The orca pod had left by the time help arrived, but the boat still had to be towed to a nearby town called Barbate. Crew members later found the rudder missing its bottom layers and teeth marks along the underside of the ship.

Most likely this has all been done by one pod, but what if the rebellion spreads?


G. Verloren said...

Most likely this has all been done by one pod, but what if the rebellion spreads?

The more pressing question, to my mind, is what did we horrible humans do to anger the orcas? Because I'm sometimes astonished that the natural world doesn't lash out at us more frequently, given how awfully we tend to treat it.

It would be interesting to compare the involved boats and get a sense of what they might have in common. Maybe they're all using a certain kind of engine, or engines that sound similar. Maybe someone in a yacht "ran over" an orca and seriously injured or even killed it with wounds from the propellors, and the family is out for revenge, and are targeting boats of a similar size and acoustic properties.

This really does seem either like revenge for something that happened previously, or it seems like a direct response to something happening at the time of attack.

Maybe my prior suggestion is off the mark, and it's something as simple as a new engine design that creates an unintended sound frequency that really bothers the orcas, so like someone thumping the ceiling with a broom to get the neighbors to turn down their obnoxiously loud music, the orcas thump the boats until the engines stop. It seems most if not all of the boats did have their sterns and rudders targeted - if they're all using similar engines, that seems like a big clue.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Orcas are just good for nothing, I wouldn't mind them extinct. In all those questions the measure of everything is Man, why would we tolerate wild killer animals close by our home or working place ? And still, in this case, we are not invading their habitat- they are invading ours. So let's just kill the damned beasts, like we'd kill dengue mosquitoes.

Polar bears: right, it's a wonderful animal, because it's fluffy and far away; still in the Arctic we just tolerate them in the distance, as soon as it approaches we shoot, if it attacks we kill. Suppose herds of polar bears came to our towns: what would we do ?

I can't stand the false, hypocritical ecologist principle of protecting any life, human or animal. It's NOT the same. Even the concept - 'orca', 'bear', 'life' - is only OUR concept. Let's not be relativist in what is absolute.

G. Verloren said...

>calls people who support maintaining quarantines against plagues Fascists
>literally advocates for exterminating whales and other human-endangered species
>justifies the above with claims that aquatic creatures are invading our habitat

What's next, supporting 'ethnic cleansing'? Maybe a few 'reeducation campaigns'? How about a doctrine of 'pro-active policing'? 'Pre-emptive defensive wars", maybe? All in the name of Liberty, of course, from the "Fascists" who don't agree...



There are limits to the tolerance of decent people.

Where do you personally draw the line on the things you're willing to give a platform to? Because as it stands, you are giving tacit approval for a psychopath to advocate wiping out entire species. You are giving them a place to address your readership with ideas that are not just absurd, but dangerous. Please reconsider.

szopen said...

i'd say the guy is trolling.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

I'd say the true fascists are showing up again.

John said...

I think this is a sign of things to come. As the large predators we nearly wiped out – orcas, great white sharks, seals, wolves, mountain lions – come back, they are going to cause more and more trouble, and more and more people are going to decide our ancestors were right and we need to start killing them again.

I have already written here about orcas and sperm whales who rob from fishing boats, wolves that kill dogs, and seals that take fish off the lines of sport fishermen. Kayaking in Maine this summer, my brother and sister had a close encounter with a huge shark that my brother, an experienced diver, said was a great white. If we continue to encourage the resurgence of predators, we are only going to see more of this.

So brace yourselves, folks, angry arguments about killing orcas, wolves, and so on are going to be part of our future.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

@ John
Yess. Not angry, just rational and realistic.

G. Verloren said...


Whales and seals "robbing" fishing boats and lines? How egocentric.

We're a terrestrial species, we developed technology that allows us to fish in places far outside our evolutionary limits, we've overfished the planet's oceans in the past century, and then we blame the dwindling whale and seal populations for "stealing" from out boats? We're stealing from them!

We go into their habitat, and take massive amounts of the food they rely on to survive! And then we're shocked and offended when they resort to taking some of that back? Maybe if we hadn't depleted the global fisheries and created virtual oceanic poverty, predators wouldn't feel the need to go to the extra effort and difficulty of directly competing with us for dwindling food resources, because getting their own would be simpler and easier. They're not stealing out of malice or perversity!

As for wolves killing dogs, far, far more dogs get killed by being run over, or shot, or neglected by us humans. We are supposed to be responsible for our pets, but many people are simply unsuited to the demands of pet ownership, or even of living near other people who do own pets responsibly.

And wolves killing dogs is just one more symptom of our negligence and incompetence. If your dog is in a place where a wolf can reach it, you're the one at fault. We have fences, we have leashes, we have training, and we have the ability to predict that if we take our dog on a hike in the wilderness, we might come across some local wildlife which is a risk we knowingly take.

Wolves aren't leaping through suburban windows and bounding up apartment block staircases to throttle the life from people's pomeranians and dachshunds. They aren't even crawling under fences to attack dogs in people's yards. They're overwhelmingly killing uncontrolled and uncontained dogs allowed to be in places they shouldn't. Put a dog and a wolf a moderate distance from each other, and the wolf is naturally going to be wary and cautious about the dog, and the dog is naturally going to be excitable and nosy about the wolf, and will bark and bound off after it to start a fight, intentionally or otherwise. And that's when dogs die.

The other, far less common time wolves kill dogs is when the wolf is literally starving and feels desperate enough to invade human territory looking for food, typically livestock in rural areas. If we did a better job of controlling wolves' access to food, that wouldn't happen. But we're terrible about things like managing deer populations and being careful where we build and live in order to give natural predators enough room to be able to avoid us easily.

Anonymous said...

I bet there will be a troll with another name... Anyway, the loss of an apex predator disrupt the ecosystem badly... Who knows what will happen then? Somebody, a blind person, who even dont see the beauty of those animals!?