Killer whale

Killer whales are not usually viewed as a threat to humans, but they have definitely been wreaking havoc with sailboats and other vessels in the North Atlantic in recent weeks.

According to, a pod of orcas rammed the British sailing vessel Mustique on its way to Gibraltar Thursday, breaching the hull and damaging the rudder. Crew members of the 66-foot boat issued a distress call to Spanish authorities and were rescued.

The attack is one of almost two dozen in May in which orcas have targeted vessels. No fatalities have been reported, but some of the boats have taken a beating. Earlier in May, the yacht Alboran Champagne suffered an attack by three orcas and sank.

The term “killer whale” is actually a misnomer, as orcas are members of the dolphin family. And they’re not really “killers.” While orcas in captivity have killed their handlers in the past, perhaps surprisingly, there has not been a recorded fatal attack on humans in the wild.

Still, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes, “the orcas’ strategy is to sneak up on their prey, surround them — and attack!” That’s usually only bad news for seals, sea lions, and other ocean-dwelling mammals.

Yet anytime you have a meat-eating creature that is classified as an apex predator, that measures up to 25 feet long and weighs around six tons, that has been actively attacking boats  — sailors beware.

[; Photo Credit: NOAA, public domain]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.