Video shows orcas attacking a sailor's yacht off the coast of Portugal, forcing him to send out a distress signal
- Orcas attacked a yacht off the coast of Portugal, causing the panicked sailor to hit his emergency beacon.
- They continued the attack even as the yacht was being towed away by a rescue boat.
A yacht was attacked by a group of orcas off the coast of Portugal on Monday, causing a panicked sailor to light up his emergency beacon.
Phep Philouceros, a 70-year-old retired sailor, was sailing to Royan, France when the attack occurred. He filmed two of the orcas ripping chunks off his boat Oxygene — including the yacht's rudder — according to reports in the Telegraph and Fox News, which cited British news service SWNS.
It was unclear how SWNS acquired the footage.
In the video, five orcas can be seen following the yacht with two of them visibly ramming the back of the boat. The killer whales' fins can also be seen surfacing in the water around the yacht.
The rudder was destroyed in one minute and pulled out," Philouceros told SWNS. He explained that by the time he noticed the orcas approaching, it was too late to scare them off using underwater pingers or firecrackers.
A rescue boat arrived within 10 to 15 minutes, but the orcas continued to ram his yacht for another half hour as it was being towed back to the port of Sagres, Portugal, per Philouceros. There were no injuries reported.
Philouceros, who encountered such an attack for the first time, thinks the orcas were young. "They were about six or seven meters long. They were neither adults nor babies. If the orcas really wanted to sink the boat, they could have done it easily. I don't think it was their intention," the sailor said.
This attack was not an isolated one. Since May 1, there have been 23 recorded instances of orcas engaging with yachts in the waters of Portugal, Spain, and the Straits of Gibraltar, the Telegraph reported, citing data from the Cruising Association.
These incidences are part of a growing trend in Southwest Europe, with the number of orcas ramming boats rising from 52 such incidents in 2020, to 207 last year, according to a July 19 report by the Guardian.
Experts are divided on the motivation behind these attacks. Orcas attacks may be motivated by the animals trying to protect their young, a working group of scientists told the BBC.
However, Orca expert Renaud de Stephanis told the BBC that orcas could be attacking boats simply because they enjoy playing with boat rudders, which then break under the killer whales' force.
Portugal's maritime authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
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