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2020's Latest Nutpunch: Orcas are Launching Coordinated Attacks on Boats

Author's Note: Shouldn't that read "Orca-strated" attacks? Don't tell me that on top of everything else the news outlets are losing their ability to pun in their headlines. Sad.

Source - When nine killer whales surrounded the 46ft boat that Victoria Morris was crewing in Spain on the afternoon of 29 July, she was elated. The biology graduate taught sailing in New Zealand and is used to friendly orca encounters. But the atmosphere quickly changed when they started ramming the hull, spinning the boat 180 degrees, disabling the autohelm and engine. The 23-year-old watched broken bits of the rudder float off, leaving the four-person crew without steering, drifting into the Gibraltar Straits shipping lane between Cape Trafalgar and the small town of Barbate. 

The pod rammed the boat for more than an hour, during which time the crew were too busy getting the sails in, readying the life raft and radioing a mayday – “Orca attack!” – to feel fear. ... "They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat. And this deafening noise as they communicated, whistling to each other. It was so loud that we had to shout.” It felt, she says, “totally orchestrated”. ...

But Morris’s was only one of several encounters between late July and August. Six days earlier, Alfonso Gomez-Jordana Martin, a 31-year-old from Alicante, was crewing a delivery boat near Barbate for the same company, Reliance Yacht Management. They were proceeding under engine when a pod of four orcas brought their 40ft Beneteau to a halt. He filmed them – it looks more like excitement and curiosity than aggression – but even this bumping damaged the rudder. And the force increased, he says, over 50 minutes. “Once we were stopped, they came in faster: 10-15 knots, from a distance of about 25m,” he remembers. “The impact tipped the boat sideways.” ...

There is one very unscientific phrase I hear repeatedly from several researchers: “Pissed off”. Some speculate that the multitude of stresses these highly sentient cetaceans have endured – years of grieving lost calves, injuries, competition for fish, coupled with a pause and reintroduction of human activity, could have affected their behaviour. 

Disease. Widespread civil unrest. Economic collapse. Businesses closing for good. Massive unemployment. Shortages. Crime rates spiking. Killer hornets. Hurricanes every couple of days. Wildfires. Buccaneer Tom Brady. So why not killer whales finally living up to their name? What could be more 2020 than that? 

Here's the thing that would separate this global crisis from all the others. On this one, I might not be on humanity's side. As much as I'm very partial and decidedly a pro-Homo Sapienfanboy, if there's an orca uprising, I might be on the side of the whales. 

I'm not usually one of those people who think about animals like they're people. But I'm one of the millions who saw "Blackfish" and became scarred for life at the way the aqua parks take these noble, highly intelligent and very social creatures, separate them from their pods and their families, cram them into tiny pools, force them to put on shows to sell funnel cakes and XXXL t-shirts to morbidly obese tourists in handifat power scooters and then jerk them off by hand to sell their semen to other parks like it's homemade fruit preserves at a county fair. That scene alone will cause you question your species and possibly cost you an erection if you think about it at the wrong time. 

So yeah, in this case I've got divided loyalties between mankind and the Orcas. Yes, if it was someone I know on those boats getting rammed and almost sunk I'd feel differently. But then again, I'd feel differently if I knew the whale doing the sinking was the calf of that mom in "Blackfish" who went to the bottom of her tank, put her head against the wall and then cried for days when they took her baby away. These are highly adaptive mammals who have been known to hunt humpback whale migrations with all the coordination and advanced planning of Sean McVay's offense. And while I respect the human lives on those boats, I'd be lying if I said part of me isn't kind of rooting for these majestic beasts to get a win. 

Sure, I say that because I'm not on a boat in the Strait of Gibraltar. I admit that. But then again, the way 2020 is going, these beasts will probably start walking and learning to arm themselves and come to wipe us all out. It's hard to argue we don't deserve it.