Did you know that more than 80 percent of the ocean remains a mystery to humans? Should one wish to experience an alien planet, they need only take a dive into the sea – no rocket ships required.
The ocean is filled with some genuinely horrifying creatures. There’s the Sarcastic Fringehead, which opens its mouth to reveal that it more closely resembles a xenomorph than a fish when threatened. And, of course, the Black Swallower, a species of deep-sea fish that swallows other creatures whole, often those larger than itself, before waiting for said creatures to decompose inside its stomach.
Thankfully, there are plenty of friendlier fish in the sea. The dolphin, the batfish, and the manatee are all known for their endearing personalities. Typically, orcas, more commonly known as killer whales, are included in this category as well.
Despite their intimidating name and size, orcas pose no threat to humans whatsoever. In fact, they tend to ignore humans altogether. Though they do hunt other animals, their prey is almost exclusively limited to large marine animals.
Orcas Attack a Sailboat Off the Coast of France
Because of their docile nature, when Ester Kristine Storkson was awoken by the family yacht shaking violently off the coast of France, the last thing she expected to find was a pod of orcas attacking the ship. Upon climbing on deck, however, she realized that was the exact situation she and her father were in.
The unusually aggressive orcas were “ramming the boat,” according to Storkson. “They [hit] us repeatedly…giving us the impression that it was a coordinated attack.”
“I told my dad, ‘I’m not thinking clearly, so you need to think for me,” she told NPR. “Thankfully, he is a very calm and centered person, and made me feel safe by gently talking about the situation.”
The orcas were ramming the ship so violently that they managed to spin the 37-foot sailboat 180 degrees. After about 15 minutes, however, they appeared satisfied with their efforts and swam away.
With the orcas out of sight, the father/daughter duo submerged their GoPro camera to assess the damage. To their horror, “approximately three-quarters of [the rudder] was broken off, and some metal was bent.”
Thankfully, the Storksons were able to bring their damaged boat back to port. Though their plan to sail around the world is temporarily on hold, the pair escaped the encounter unscathed.
Killer Whale Attacks Are Exceedingly Rare
As of now, there’s no record of an orca killing a human in the wild. Though a few deaths have occurred from an orca attack, they’ve all been the result of attempting to hold the enormous predators in captivity.
Renaud de Stephanis, president and coordinator at CIRCE Conservación Information and Research, is at a complete loss as to why the orcas attacked the sailboat. His educated guess, however, is that it isn’t an attack at all. Instead, they’re frustrated by the still propeller.
“What we think is that they’re asking to have the propeller in the face,” de Stephanis said. So, when they don’t get the movement of the water from a stationary boat, “they get kind of frustrated and that’s why they break the rudder.”