Killer whales have been targeting boats in the Strait of Gibraltar (Picture: Getty)
As killer whales continue to attack boats in the Strait of Gibraltar, some sailors have resorted to blasting heavy metal at them – a tactic one expert says could backfire. Badly.
Since May 2020, orcas have been repeatedly targeting boats in the seas off the coasts of Spain and Portugal, in particular trying to rip off the vessels’ rudders.
Although no humans have been harmed, at least three boats have been sunk by the attacks, with many more damaged.
Experts are not sure why the animals are behaving in this way, but suspect the attacks may have been prompted by one killer whale, White Gladis, after she was injured by a rudder and suffered a potential ‘critical moment of agony’.
Killer whales are well-known for sharing habits between pods – in 1987, one female in Puget Sound in the northeast Pacific started the trend of wearing a dead salmon on her head. Soon, whales in three different pods were doing the same.
Like the whales, sailors have also been sharing tips on how to avoid the ‘orca uprising’, and this includes blasting heavy metal at them using underwater speakers.
Speaking to the New York Times, Florian Rutsch said he had been using the curated playlist titled ‘Metal for Orcas’ to deter them from approaching his catamaran, just one of many suggestions circulating on Facebook, Telegram and other social media.
Songs include Exceptionally Sadistic by Monument Of Misanthropy and The Blood Of Power by Dying Fetus.
‘It is scary,’ said Mr Rutsch. ‘No one knows what works, what doesn’t work.’
However, not only does the Spanish government specifically prohibit blasting orca with underwater sounds to drive them away, one orca expert warns it could actually have the exact opposite effect.
‘Initially, the playing of loud sounds underwater might mask the signature sounds of sailboats,’ said Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia. ‘But ultimately the whales would catch on and use it to more easily locate vessels playing it.’
Killer whales: the lowdown
Orcas are part of the dolphin family (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)
Despite being called whales, orcas are actually the largest member of the dolphin family, also known as cetaceans.
Their scientific name is Orcinus orca.
Orcas can grow to be almost ten metres long and weigh up to five and a half tonnes.
A male orca’s dorsal fin can grow up to 1.8 metres high – taller than the average UK male.
They can live to be up to 90 years of age.
Killer whales have their own complex language, communicating through a range of clicks, whistles, pulses, squeaks and screams.
Thanks to their awesome hunting skills and 100 pointed teeth, orcas are top predators – even the most feared ocean resident, the great white …read more