Orca Wars / Killer Whales Attacking Boats
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Orca Wars, also known as Killer Whales Attacking Boats, refer to a series of attacks by orca whales against ships sailing in waters around Europe, particularly near Spain. The orcas carried out coordinated attacks and taught each other tactics for sinking and disabling ships, such as destroying rudders. According to a report published in the spring of 2023, orca attacks off the coast of Spain and Portugal accelerated after 2020 when a female orca named White Gladis who was "traumatized" by a human ship reportedly began teaching others to attack ships. The news sparked memes and commentary online about a possible "orca war," in which the marine mammals would turn against human beings.
Scientists believe that White Gladis, a member of a highly endangered species, was attacked by an illegal fishing ship at some point in 2020. Suffering a "critical moment of agony," the orca whale fought back, and since then, other orca whales have imitated her. Over 100 attacks on ships have been reported since 2020, with three of them sinking. The attacks predominantly happened off the coast of Spain and Portugal.
The orcas appear to target the rudders of boats, which move in the water and cause vibrations. The increase in violent orca-boat interactions led the government of Portugal to issue a notice in November 2020, advising sailors to turn off the engines of boats if orcas are sighted. During a May 4th attack on a German yacht in the strait of Gibraltar, "the little (orcas) shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side," and succeeded in sinking the boat.
Scientific Evidence Of Orca Aggression
A paper published by Spanish scientists in June 2022 described the orca attacks to the wider academic community. However, two sinkings in early May 2023 led to the website Live Science running a story on May 18th, 2023, about the orca attacks and other publications following suit shortly after.
As word of the so-called "Orca Wars" spread online in May 2023, Twitter users like @vinn_ayy expressed doubts about humanity's ability to fight the killer whales, receiving almost 18,000 likes in two days for tweeting (seen below, left) on May 20th that "we are not prepared for an orca war." Others, like user @roxiqt, also joked on May 20th about the new hobby that the orcas had learned, receiving almost 40,000 likes in a similar timeframe (seen below, right).
Others expressed support for the orcas. For example, on May 20th, 2023, Twitter user @spicygolem posted an I Wish All Lesbians A Very Pleasant Evening meme wishing the orca whales luck in their campaign against the boats, receiving almost 500 likes in two days (seen below).
For some, the attacks reminded them of Freya the Walrus, another endangered marine mammal who got into trouble for aggressive behavior in Europe. For example, Twitter user @vinn_ayy, while despairing about humanity's chances in the orca wars, posted about Freya and received over 500 likes on May 20th (seen below).
Also on May 20th, 2023, Twitter user @LucyASnyder posted about the orca attacks imagining a note they'd leave behind, receiving over 1,300 likes and 330 retweets in two days (shown below).
 LiveScience – Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same. But why?
 amn.pt – National Maritime Authority warns of the care to be taken in case of interaction or sighting of orcas
 Marine Mammal Science – Killer whales of the Strait of Gibraltar, an endangered subpopulation showing a disruptive behavior
 Twitter – @spicygolem
 Twitter – LucyASnyder
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May 22, 2023 at 03:37PM EDT
May 22, 2023 at 03:58PM EDT
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