An orca in blue ocean water, swimming beside a boat where three people stand, looking at it.

Orca Wars / Killer Whales Attacking Boats

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Updated May 22, 2023 at 04:23PM EDT by Zach.

Added May 22, 2023 at 08:02AM EDT by Aidan Walker.

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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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[1]

Online Reactions

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."[5] 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).[6]

Vinny Thomas @vinn_ayy May 20 we are not prepared for an Orca War. We do not have the resources. cas have sunk 3 boats in rope and appear to be aching others to do the me. But why? WS By Sascha Pare published 2 days ago 246 entists think a traumatized orca iated the assault on boats after a itical moment of agony" and that t Reports of aggressive encounters with orcas havior is spreading among the off the Iberian coast began in May 2020 and are becoming more frequent, according to a study published June 2022 in the journal pulation through social learning. Marine Mammal Science. Assaults seem to be 2,171 smaller and one larger orca," skipper Werner Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht. "The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side." Schaufelberger said he saw the smaller orcas imitate the larger one. "The two little orcas observed the bigger one's technique and, with how to charge into the rudder. "It was definitely some form of education, teaching going on," Blackburn told 9news. 17.8K 1M 企 I am a: Roxi Horror @roxiqt male female nonbinary orca Interested in: men women nonbinaries sinking boats in Europe 4:06 AM • May 20, 2023 766.1K Views 5,647 Retweets 65 Quotes 38.7K Likes 269 Bookmarks ...

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).[4]

i wish all Orcas in Europe a very pleasant sinking all the boats they find

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).[7]

Sarah the Prairie Hag @sweetcheetah May 20 After Norway euthanized Freya for sinking boats, I'm hopeful that a walrus contingent might join the Orca War. 2 t 10 506 il 14.9K ↑

Also on May 20th, 2023, Twitter[8] 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).

Lucy A. Snyder @LucyASnyder THE ORCA LEAVES A NOTE I have sunk the yachts that were in our ocean and upon which you probably spent millions of dollars Forgive me they were destructive so dirty and so loud 7:41 PM May 20, 2023 38.2K Views . 331 Retweets 12 Quotes 1,337 Likes 23 Bookmarks

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Fun Orca facts:

1. Arguably the apex predator for every ocean they exist in if you don't count Humans.
2. Will kill Great White Sharks by stealing their liver and nothing else, leaving the body to intimidate other sharks.
3. Incredibly intelligent: One scientist accidentally taught an Orca how to have a snowball fight by simply throwing one at it, the Orca immediately began punting small chunks of ice back at the ship in response.
4. Debatably have culture and are known to pass knowledge and information between each other, mostly about complex and surprisingly effective hunting tactics.

I only have one question, specifically about the poachers:

Mistress Fortune
Mistress Fortune

Frankly I'm with the orcas. Yes I'm biased as fuck because orcas are my favorite sea animal, but still. I know in general orcas rarely ever harm humans (only major instances of orcas killing humans were only with ones in captivity at Sea World that were subjugated to shitty living conditions), and according to some studies apparently the way orcas view humans is they look at us the same way humans look at domesticated dogs and cats, so if an orca is going "fuck your ship you asshole" then I feel like you probably fucked up badly.


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