The orcas are at it again

The orcas are getting good at sinking ships. It’s gotten so bad that Spanish officials are recommending that small boats avoid the deep water off Gibraltar and hug the coast.

The Alboran Cognac’s crew said they felt sudden blows on the hull and that the boat began taking on water. They were rescued by a nearby oil tanker, but the sailboat, left to drift, later went down.

The sinking brings the number of vessels sunk – mostly sailing yachts – to at least five since 2020. Hundreds of less serious encounters resulting in broken rudders and other damage, Alfredo López Fernandez, a coauthor of a 2022 study in the journal Marine Mammal Science, told NPR late last year.

What I find interesting is that there is so much speculation about what causes the behavior. I’m observing the humans, and what I see is a lot of floundering about trying to blame the sinkings on simplistic single causes, rather than appreciating that these are large brained animals with complex social interactions, and maybe we need to avoid explanations that hinge on one aspect of animal behavior. People are moving in their world and dancing around explanations that respect the sophistication of the animals.

Researchers are unsure about the causes for the behaviour, with leading theories including it being a playful manifestation of the mammals’ curiosity, a social fad or the intentional targeting of what they perceive as competitors for their favourite prey, the local bluefin tuna.

Something else I’ve noticed is that all the explanations are centered on the whales, treating the fact that another large brained animal with complex social interactions is moving into their territory, and we apes are sitting around saying “It’s not our fault!” as if we are blameless victims of dumb animal reflexes.

So I have my own simplistic single cause that may explain what’s going on, and that places any blame appropriately.

Humans are assholes.

The actions of a New Zealand man filmed jumping off a boat in what appears to be an attempt to “body slam” an orca have been described as “shocking” and “idiotic” by the country’s Department of Conservation.

In a video shared to Instagram in February, a man can be seen jumping off the edge of a boat into the sea off the coast of Devonport in Auckland, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to touch or “body slam” the orca, the department said. He leaps into the water very close to a male orca, as a calf swims nearby, while someone on board the boat films it. Others can be heard laughing and swearing in the background.

As he swims back towards the boat he yells “I touched it” and asks “did you get that?” He then attempts to touch the orca again.

Hayden Loper, a principal investigator at the department, said the 50-year-old man showed reckless disregard for his own safety and that of the orca. “The video speaks for itself, it is shocking and absolutely idiotic behaviour,” he said.

I think my hypothesis is backed by an immense body of evidence. Humans are arrogant idiots, and the fact that the orca did not respond by simply eating the stupid individual suggests that the whale are capable of remarkable restraint and are far more civilized than the overgrown monkeys attacking them.

I rest my case.


  1. gijoel says

    Given some orcas have a tendency to murder animal trainers it’s only a matter of time before one of them snaps.

  2. gijoel says

    Also the boofhead is lucky to be alive. I think that was the point I was trying to make in @1

  3. Hemidactylus says

    Orcas kill great white sharks to enjoy their livers. Some bozo jumping out of a boat doesn’t stand a chance.

  4. lakitha tolbert says

    Well, I guess its time for a re-watch of that great 1977 cetacean revenge film: Orca!

  5. garnetstar says

    I say, good on the orcas, and I hope they sink at least one of those billionaires’ ego-boats, their super yachts.

  6. Artor says

    I am honestly amazed that cetaceans are generally so chill toward humans, after centuries of our abuse. We know they talk to each other. They have to know what humans have done to their kind. Why are dolphins so nice to us? Why do humpbacks go out of their way to protect humans from sharks? Why haven’t orcas been eating every human in the water they meet?

  7. vinnievidivici says

    Here’s my simplistic theory (FWIW), but it only addresses the second half of the orca’s behavior:

    Adult cetaceans discipline juveniles by nipping and tugging at their fins. Most of the attacked boats (and all the ones that have been sunk, I think) are small sailboats, 50 feet or less, and the damage I’ve heard described has mostly been bent and torn rudders and keels—i.e., the “fins.” So, I think these orca are fed up with some behavior humans are doing, and telling us to knock it off—but they don’t know their own strength, or how delicate a sailboat really is. (All you have to do is tear the rudder or keel a little and you’ve got a catastrophic leak.)

    What’s the human behavior that they want us to stop? Too many possibilities to list.

  8. StevoR says

    As well as someone exceedingly stupid and seemingly actively seeking a Darwin Award. WTF dude!? Very much the marine equivalent of trying to annoy a wild lion without protective gear and weaponry or body slam a Grizzly bare -chested, er, the human that is not the bear pun unintentional…

  9. StevoR says

    @6. timgueguen

    “Don’t worry, humans. We won’t eat you. You guys taste really bad!”

    -unidentified orca spokeswhale.

    Your boats OTOH.. Also probly don’t taste great but do end up going down a treat .. for other critters and Davy Jones metaphorical locker not you.

  10. StevoR says

    FWIW & surprised by this :

    On September 9, 1972,[14] Californian surfer Hans Kretschmer reported being bitten by an orca at Point Sur; most maintain that this remains the only fairly well-documented instance of a wild orca biting a human.[15][16] His wounds required 100 stitches.[16][17]

    On March 9, 1976, the Italian racing yacht Guia III was rammed and sunk by an orca off the coast of Brazil. The vessel was hit once by an individual out of a pod of four to five orcas. The crew of six successfully escaped to a liferaft. The whales showed no reaction to the escaping humans a few meters away from them.

    Source :

    Captive orcas are a different story as Tilikum’s life story shows.

  11. asclepias says

    The comedian Josh Johnson had a fantastic bit on orcas sinking yachts, and he began it with thew title of this post. He went on to say that this yacht was just being moved from one place to another by a bunch of poor sods who were in the employ of whoever owned the yacht, which he said makes him think even more that this is a money thing. I encourage everybody to look it up.

  12. seachange says

    My own fun comment on ‘why oh why’ is that just like they like sharkliver they might like pate de foie gras and this is a way to get some. Caviar is seafoodish, and then champagne to go with. Not to drink but for the fun bubbles on their skin.

  13. asclepias says

    I looked again at my comment and realized I left out the part that the yacht sank, but the orcas did not attack the people in the water who had been just moving it from place to place. That’s what makes him think this is a money thing.

  14. chrislawson says

    Sinking a 50-foot yacht is pretty damn impressive. My theory? They’ve discovered yachts are fun to sink. “Hey everyone, if you keep ramming these things, it’s amazing what falls out of them!”

  15. flange says

    The only somewhat bright part of this escapade: At least the idiot human was not an American.
    USA! USA! USA!

  16. crimsonsage says

    Uncritical support for the cetacean people’s front in its resistance against genocidal hominids.

  17. Matt G says

    It’s actually the People’s Front of Cetacea. The Cetacean People’s Front is down to one whale.

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