Boat Captain Says Ambushing Orcas Know What They’re Doing

( – Captain Dan Kritz, a delivery skipper with Reliance Yacht Management, claims that he has been the target of two separate attacks by orcas. Orcas, also known as killer whales, rarely trouble humans, but reports of coordinated attacks on boats by groups of them have increased recently. A group that researches orcas, GTOA, found that such attacks nearly quadrupled in a two-year period, with 207 reports in 2022 compared to just 52 reports in 2020.

The first time that Kritz found himself on the receiving end of the killer whales’ attention was in 2020 when he was delivering a yacht via the Strait of Gibraltar. His boat was surrounded by a pod of eight orcas, who pushed and battered the boat for an hour. They left it with such severe damage to the rudders that the crew was left stranded and had to be towed back to a nearby marina. In April 2023, he was working on a delivery near the Canary Islands when he realized that he was yet again under attack.

The second attack was more efficient than the first. In 2020, he could hear the whales communicating with each other under the boat. In 2023, they destroyed both rudders in minimal time and without audibly communicating. Biologist Jeff Corwin commented on the “incredible intelligence” of these marine mammals and explained that we are witnessing “adaptive behavior” on the orcas’ part. It would appear that the sea creatures, who have been known to weigh up to 11 tons, are learning from their experiences and sharing their knowledge with other whales.

There is debate about the reason behind this sudden increase in attacks. One biologist has suggested that revenge may be the motivation. The theory is that one whale has had a damaging encounter with a boat previously, and has gone on to teach her fellow whales to attack boats as a result. Other animal experts have rejected this theory and instead suggested that it may be a form of sport or even a teaching method in which adult whales show their young how to hunt.

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