Here in the United States, there’s nothing more recognizable than a killer whale, even for kids who’ve never had a chance to visit SeaWorld or – the ultimate – see a pod in the wild. “Shamu” as the SeaWorld mascot is known, along with innumerable TV documentaries, has made orcas pretty darn popular.
And even with lots of new footage…
…and David Attenborough or the BBC’s utterly terrifying “these whales are SMART” documentaries year after year…
…orcas in the U.S. are beloved and a sighting is celebrated vice regarded with fear. People accept they are apex predators in their own right and dominion, but they’ve always coexisted placidly enough alongside their punier human mammalian cousins when in the water.
I remember decades ago, before we left SoCal, there was a transient pod of orcas that spent about a week off of surfer nirvana Newport Beach. Because surfers don’t get out of the water for darn near anything short of a 12 ft great white, and the orcas seemed to be delighted to swoosh through the fellows waiting for the next ride, it made the local news every night and all the papers. Really was too cool. Every afternoon, the breakwater at the Wedge and the beaches were jammed with people hoping they’d be lucky enough to catch a glimpse if and when the pod came inshore.
Everyone was bummed when they moved on.
The traveling pods still make their way benignly past Orange County and some repeat visitors have even earned affectionate nicknames.
Is Orange County becoming a go-to playground for orcas?
This month has brought an unusual amount of orca activity off the Orange County coastline, first with a pod of Eastern Tropical Pacific killer whales that showed up to feast on dolphins. Then, on Tuesday, Sept. 25, a pod of CA51 orcas were spotted off Newport Beach.
The CA51 orcas are more familiar than the ETPs that lingered for days off Orange County and San Diego, but which longtime experts said they’ve never seen off local waters in past years.
The CA51 pod, on the other hand, has shown up in previous years and is often called the “the friendly pod.”
They lived up to their nickname on Tuesday, frolicking around boats that gathered nearby, about 12 miles off the coast of Newport Beach. They were first alerted to Dana Wharf Whale Watching, who put out the word they were near Catalina.
Everyone loves Shamu.
I’m not sure what’s – literally – in the water in Europe, but they surely have lost their minds, especially on the Green front. Like, the Germans are determined to extinguish themselves as rapidly and miserably as possible, everyone’s watching to see what happens with Ukraine and Russia (And do they take out the neighbors?), the Dutch are hell bent on starving to death, Britain is going bi-polar wind and nuclear, Ireland’s determined to be a police state…the looney to-do list is just nuts.
And now, apparently, it’s affecting the wildlife.
In Europe, Shamu is out to get YOU.
I’m not kidding – they really are.
Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same. But why?
Orcas have attacked and sunk a third boat off the Iberian coast of Europe, and experts now believe the behavior is being copied by the rest of the population.
Three orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whales, struck the yacht on the night of May 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar, off the coast of Spain, and pierced the rudder. “There were two 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 a slight run-up, they too slammed into the boat.” Spanish coast guards rescued the crew and towed the boat to Barbate, but it sank at the port entrance.
What in the wide world of sports?! Here in the U.S., we routinely describe them as “playful,” both their interactions with surfers AND vessels. But HOLY SCHAMOLY, these killer whales in Europe seem to be on a different wavelength entirely. As in believing the “killer” hype, for starters.
They got another boat just last night.
Killer whales severely damaged a sailing boat off the coast of southern Spain, the local maritime rescue service said on Thursday, adding to dozens of orca attacks on vessels recorded so far this year on Spanish and Portuguese coasts.
In the early hours of Thursday, a group of orcas broke the rudder and pierced the hull after ramming into the Mustique on its way to Gibraltar, prompting its crew of four to contact Spanish authorities for help, a spokesman for the maritime rescue service said.
…According to the research group GTOA, which tracks populations of the Iberian orca sub-species, the incident follows at least 20 interactions this month alone in the Strait of Gibraltar between small vessels and the highly social apex predators. In 2022, there were 207 reported interactions, GTOA data showed.
As with many bits of unpleasantness in this woke day and age, a “traumatized” white female is suspected of being the catalyst for the violence.
Not Karen, but Gladis.
…Researchers think that these increasing attacks may be due to the influence of a single female orca named White Gladis, who initiated the attacks. She may have caused the other orcas to learn from her behavior and follow suit.
…”The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course, we don’t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day,” Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and a representative of the Grupo de Trabajo Orca Atlántica (Atlantic Orca Working Group), told LiveScience.
López Fernandez suggested that White Gladis may have been traumatized by a boat in some manner, by a collision or perhaps entanglement with a fishing boat, leading to her lashing out at yachts.
“That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with the boat,” López Fernandez said.
White Gladis felt disrespected, got mad, started up a street gang of impressionable youth, and that’s all she wrote for Spanish yachting.
Hasta la vista, Hernando.
I hope no one’s comparing continental notes when U.S. and Euro pods pass each other out in the Laurentian Abyss. This is for sure one European trend we don’t need crossing the pond.
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