"The whales were in charge of the boat."

Dun Dun...

A pod of orcas — or killer whales, if you will — ganged up on an unsuspecting yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar, toyed with the vessel, and completely stripped it of its rudders.

The close encounter marks only the latest in a string of seemingly calculated orca attacks on human vessels off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. According to Insider, there have been 20 incidents in the Strait in the past month alone.

In decidedly "Jaws"-esque fashion, Iain Hamilton, a British sailor captaining the yacht, recalled that he first noticed a fin, and then… a large bump.

"[I] looked around and there was a very large whale pushing along the back of the boat, trying to bite the rudder," Hamilton told BBC Radio 4 on Monday.

To make matters worse, the big orca was not acting alone and was joined by four other smaller orcas.

Eventually, the orcas removed not one, but both of the yacht's rudders, leaving Hamilton without a means of steering it.

"The whales were in charge of the boat," he described, adding that they "pushed us around like a ragdoll."

Just Playin'

Hamilton's assessment was that luckily for those onboard, the orcas apparently only wanted to mess around.

"The sense was it wasn't aggressive," he told BBC Radio 4, "it was almost playful."

Hamilton added that because of their sheer strength and size, the orcas could've easily broken the boat if they wanted to. But instead, they simply wanted to "play with the rudder."

That sounds par for the course for orcas, who are known to cruelly toy with their prey before killing them.

Another sailor aboard the yacht told LiveScience that the orcas kept up their assault for over an hour.

When the Spanish coastguard finally began to tug the vessel back to shore, the sailor observed that the orcas even followed them most of the way back.

Getting Revenge

As LiveScience reported last month, a recent study in the journal Marine Mammal Science found an uptick in aggressive orca encounters since at least 2020, which only recently escalated to actually sinking boats.

"In more than 500 interaction events recorded since 2020 there are three sunken ships," co-author Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal, told LiveScience last month.

In other words, Hamilton's brush with the killer whales may soon only be one of many. Scientists believe the behavior originated with a female orca nicknamed White Gladis, who was traumatized by an encounter with a human sailboat and began to lash out at other ships. The theory goes that other adult orcas learned from her behavior, and are teaching it to their pods.

For now, the orca attacks appear limited to around the Iberian coast, but it remains unclear if the behavior will become even more aggressive or spread further.

More on: Experts Say Killer Whales Are Teaching Each Other to Attack Boats

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