A sailboat sank by a killer whale in Gibraltar.  Experts are divided: “He wanted to take revenge on the man” or “No, he was just playing.”

Perfect wind and blue sea. The 15-metre-long Alboran Cognac sailing ship was sailing safely 14 miles from Gibraltar, when passengers on board began to feel bumps on the white hull at around 9am on Sunday.

The blows got louder and louder and punched holes in the crossbar. The sailboat began to take on water. The crew was released on Labor Day and rescued by a passing tanker. After a while, the Boran cognac sank.

The two men on board said they saw a killer whale attack the rudder and keel. It wasn't hard to believe: since 2020, orca attacks on boats – previously very rare – have become frequent, especially around the Strait of Gibraltar, but in one case also in Scotland, near the Shetland Islands. In four years, 350 accidents occurred, including the sinking of 5 sailing boats and 2 fishing boats.

Why killer whales started attacking boats in 2020 is unclear. A pregnant whale is injured in a collision with a sailboat, with her classmates determined to get revenge on her.

The account has not been confirmed, although it seems that the heroes of the clashes all belong to the same group, or to a few groups living nearby, called gladiators (the name actually refers to any killer whale that approaches a boat, even without hits her). They will be led by the surviving mother orca, who is completely white like Moby Dick.

Other experts argue that killer whales see their competitors' tuna fishing boats, their preferred prey, or they simply want to play. As happens with other wild animals, such as bears, the specimen may have acquired the habit of approaching humans, and being imitated immediately afterwards by others.

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Whatever the reason, after the ship sank on Sunday, Spain forced small boats to sail only close to the coast.

Iberian Peninsula killer whales, a species classified as endangered, can reach 6 meters in length and weigh 4 tons. Despite their nickname as killers, they were never considered aggressive animals. “Playing” with boats is not safe for them either: since 2020, at least 4 specimens have died in collisions.


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