There have been at least 40 incidents involving killer whales off the coasts of Portugal and Spain since July

By Eric Todisco
November 17, 2020 02:09 PM
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A group of killer whales rammed into a 45-foot yacht off the coast of Portugal in late October, terrifying passengers onboard.

David Smith, the yacht's skipper, recounted the ordeal to Good Morning America on Tuesday, telling the outlet that the incident lasted for nearly two hours.

"It was really scary, because you could see nothing around," he recalled.

Speaking to BBC News, Smith said he and several other crew members were sailing the yacht from France to Gibraltar when they witnessed what they initially thought were dolphins in the water. But after noticing the black-and-white patterns on the sea animals, Smith realized it was a pod of orcas, or killer whales — just as they began aggressively ramming into the boat.

"It was continuous," Smith told the outlet. "I think there were six or seven animals, but it seemed like the juvenile ones — the smaller ones — were most active. They seemed to be going for the rudder, the wheel would just start spinning really fast every time there was an impact."

Orcas
| Credit: Good Morning America

Smith managed to reach the coast guard on the satellite phone, and was instructed to cut the motors, drop the sails, and be as "uninteresting as possible."

"While I was on the phone, I could hear them ramming the boat," Smith recalled to BBC News. "At one point, one of the larger animals came right to the stern and flipped onto its back — you could see its bright white underside."

Smith said that his biggest fear was that the animals would dislodge the rudder stock. "If that fractures, you’re really in trouble," he said. "I was definitely preparing to ask the Portuguese coastguard to send a helicopter to get us off."

Two hours after they initially attacked, the pod of orcas suddenly disappeared. "After about an hour, we were confident they’d left us," Smith said.

According to BBC News, the incident is one of at least 40 orca ambushes that have recently occurred in the waters off the coasts of Portugal and Spain. The first incident was reported in July.