Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The yacht Grazie Mamma II carried its crew along the coastlines and archipelagos of the Mediterranean. Its last adventure was off the coast of Morocco last week, when it encountered a pod of orcas.

The marine animals slammed the yacht’s rudder for 45 minutes, causing major damage and a leak, according to Morskie Mile, the boat’s Polish operators. The crew escaped, and rescuers and the Moroccan Navy tried to tow the yacht to safety, but it sank near the port of Tanger Med, the operator said on its website.

The account of the sinking is adding to the worries of many sailors along the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula, where marine biologists are studying a puzzling phenomenon: Orcas are jostling and ramming boats in interactions that have disrupted dozens of voyages and caused at least four boats in the past two years to sink.

The largest of the dolphin family, orcas are playful apex predators that hunt sharks, whales and other prey but are generally amiable to humans in the wild. The orcas hunting in the Strait of Gibraltar are considered to be endangered, and researchers have noticed an upsurge of unusual behavior since 2020: A small group of the marine animals have been battering boats in the busy routes around Portugal, Spain and Morocco.

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