It’s still not safe to go back in the water.
Killer whales attacked again, and one British sailor has recounted the entire “terrifying,” hours-long ordeal.
David Smith was sailing in a 45-foot yacht off the coast of Portugal in October when his boat was rammed by an ornery pod of orcas.
“I don’t frighten easily and this was terrifying,” Smith told the BBC.
Smith, “quit the rat race” in 2013 and now delivers new boats to their owners. On this journey, he and several others were delivering the yacht from France to Gibraltar when they were set upon by what he first thought was a school of dolphins.
According to Smith, an hour before sunset, a crew member called out, noting “it looks like we have some large dolphins” at the back of the boat.
But Smith saw the distinctive black-and-white patterns of orcas — and noticed they were behaving very oddly as one dipped below the boat before ramming it for several hours.
“It was continuous,” Smith told the BBC. “I think there were six or seven animals, but it seemed like the juvenile ones — the smaller ones — were most active. They seemed to be going for the rudder, the wheel would just start spinning really fast every time there was an impact.”
The group tried to call for help but were out of radio range — finally reaching the Portuguese Coast Guard on a satellite phone and being told to cut the engine, take down the sails and be as “uninteresting” to the orcas as possible.
“So then we were just drifting. But while I was on the phone I could hear them ramming the boat,” Smith recalled. “At one point, one of the larger animals came right to the stern and flipped onto its back — you could see its bright white underside.”
Smith’s fear was that the whales would dislodge the rudder stock, penetrating the boat — inevitably sinking it.
“If that fractures, you’re really in trouble,” Smith told the BBC. “I was definitely preparing to ask the Portuguese Coast Guard to send a helicopter to get us off.”
The attack finally stopped after two hours — as suddenly as it had started.
The attack is one of over 40 that have occurred this year in the waters off Spain and Portugal as killer whales focus on people and boats in what several scientists think could be revenge attacks after several of their numbers sustained injuries over the summer from rudders.
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