Orcas Just Sank Another Yacht


37 points by belter on 2024-05-15 | 33 comments

Automated Summary

A group of orcas, or killer whales, attacked and sank a sailing yacht near the Strait of Gibraltar, leading to the rescue of two people. This incident is one of many recent attacks by orcas in the area since 2020, which is an unusual phenomenon. Researchers have proposed two main hypotheses for this behavior: it could be a fad, or it might be a response to past negative experiences with boats. The Iberian orca population is critically endangered, and migration routes expose them to various vessels. Orcas are known to be intelligent and adaptable predators, with recent studies suggesting that there might be multiple species of orcas in the Pacific Northwest.


karaterobot on 2024-05-15

> “It is a rare behavior that has only been detected in this part of the world,” said Alfredo López, an orca researcher at the Atlantic Orca Working Group (GTOA), in an interview with Scientific American last year.

They also recently rammed into a yacht near Scotland, and in British Columbia an Orca collided a yacht into another yacht by dragging the anchor chain.



I don't know how rare it is either, but it's not unprecedented. There are lots of old sailor stories about aggressive whales.

anticorporate on 2024-05-15

What I saw in other reports that I did not see highlighted in this article is that the whales aren't just deciding to sink yachts, but appear to be teaching each other.


Personally, I have my fingers crossed that they can learn to target yachts specifically.

HFguy on 2024-05-15

"I have my fingers crossed that they can learn to target yachts specifically."

"Yachts" here look like moderately sized sail boats. Doesn't look like this is rich people's super yachts if that is what you are getting at.

zardo on 2024-05-15

The definition of yacht is loosely a boat for personal use that is suitable for multiple day trips.

maxerickson on 2024-05-15

Right, the response will obviously be to do nothing/protect the whales.

(I'm being sarcastic, they'll get slaughtered)

Big incentive to learn the language I guess, so that someone can explain how one sided the situation actually is.

fuzzfactor on 2024-05-15

It probably all started with somebody in a yacht flushing their toilet in that part of the sea.

I can imagine somebody is sharpening up their harpoons somewhere.

victorbjorklund on 2024-05-15

You get that you can buy a sailboat "yacht" in europe for 1000 usd right? Or even get one for free. Plenty of people sailing are not rich.

saltcured on 2024-05-15

I'm remembering that orca attack was one of the seemingly fanciful explanations floated to explain the disappearance of Jim Gray and his boat near San Francisco years ago.

Would be almost ironic if this were true. (An eminent CS pioneer falling prey to a whale R&D project decades before they took it mainstream.)

evolve2k on 2024-05-15

There was a YouTube video showing tracked wales trying to cross an ocean. It also visualised ships crossing the same ocean. There was so much traffic that the wales kept having to turn back and turn back. In the end being unable to find a gap in the “traffic” to be able to make the journey across.

I feel this may partly explain the motivation to take a few ships out that fall within do-able for them.

drcongo on 2024-05-15

Can they not go under the traffic?

maxbond on 2024-05-15

If I recall correctly, the issue is noise, not the physical footprint of the boat.

Here's the visualization: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qNO6JaL9PY

drcongo on 2024-05-15

Ahhh of course, thanks. What a dolt I am.

maxbond on 2024-05-15

Oh I didn't mean that, it don't think it's at all obvious. I thought your question was reasonable.

drcongo on 2024-05-15

I was genuinely thanking you! As soon as I read your answer I thought "oh, that's incredibly obvious, I should think more before posting". Hopefully it all helped someone else anyway.

krackers on 2024-05-15

I still don't understand - what is it about the noise that prevents the whales from crossing it? Do they confuse the noise for an active predator, or does the noise prevent them from navigating properly with their echolocation?

drcongo on 2024-05-16

I'd guess it's interfering with their communication and internal mapping in myriad ways.

RACEWAR on 2024-05-15

As susceptible this news story is to humorous takes, I worry that this may soon affect honest seamen and others aboard vessels 50 feet long and below. Or is it happening already but it’s not being mentioned because the yacht stories are juicier? This is troubling.

kordlessagain on 2024-05-15

We could use AI to ask a captive orca what they think about this matter.

astrodust on 2024-05-15

That's like asking someone from an unconnected tribe why kids are doing stupid stuff on TikTok.

onemoresoop on 2024-05-15

Do you think one can use AI to help humans build some common sense? You seem to need it badly.

lambaro on 2024-05-15

What in the world are you talking about?

runsfromfire on 2024-05-15

“So long and thanks for all the yachts”

EricE on 2024-05-15
matrix12 on 2024-05-15

Hard to believe not that long ago that they use to help us hunt whales. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Tom_(orca)

barfbagginus on 2024-05-16

Extra points if we eventually find out that someone is communicating with the whales, putting them up to it with promises of fish : )

hi-v-rocknroll on 2024-05-15

People who take a yacht in the middle of the unforgiving ocean without a ranged weapon to dissuade pirates or rogue sea life aren't just stupid but a liability since they waste taxpayers' money when they have to be rescued because they chose to be unprepared.

victorbjorklund on 2024-05-16

You get that strait of gibraltar is so small you can see the other side right? So hardly middle of the ocean to sail your boat when you can see land on both sides with your eyes.

How would you prepare against orcas?

hi-v-rocknroll on 2024-05-16

> You get that strait of gibraltar [sic] is so small you can see the other side right? So hardly middle of the ocean to sail your boat when you can see land on both sides with your eyes.

Not sure what this was supposed to say, but it appears to be a red herring.

Proactively: Design and build yachts that are more robust to blunt impact.

Situationally: Hunting rifle or speargun.

matrix12 on 2024-05-15

There is a reason they are named Orcinus Orca...

dvfjsdhgfv on 2024-05-15

My first thought was that the derogatory name for Russian invaders has somehow become mainstream...

azubinski on 2024-05-15

Orcas are not orcs, orcas have a biological nature.

It's just that sometimes orcas don't like yachts :(

This is explainable and understandable at least.

hulitu on 2024-05-17

> My first thought

keep up the good work. /s

bobosha on 2024-05-15

shocking. wild behavior seen in the wild.