A British couple recently shared their terrifying experience of being under attack — by killer whales.
Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell of Cambridge, in eastern England, were enjoying a sailing course off the coast of Morocco recently when they spotted a pod of orcas, they said.
Some of the deadly marine mammals then started bumping the boat — an attack that apparently continued for an hour, as British news service SWNS reported.
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Also faced with high winds and big swells, the crew eventually managed to navigate to calmer waters — and to safety.
But Morris, a business consultant, said of the incident, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw them — it’s extremely rare. We were sitting ducks,” as SWNS reported.
“We were amazingly calm but underneath we were thinking, ‘Oh my God.’”
She also said, “Because everyone was calm it felt OK, but we were petrified. It wasn’t until afterward that we talked about being very scared.”
She said, “We got our valuables and our passports and talked about getting the life raft ready. It really didn’t help that conditions were bad before the orcas. The boat was moving around a lot — it was hard to distinguish one cause from the others.”
“Orcas enjoy the thrill of the chase.”
Morris added, “The captain was very calm and orderly, which got everyone through.”
Bidwell, a 58-year-old photographer, said of the incident, “We all remained calm because we were aware that if any of us got anxious it would be infectious,” as SWNS reported.
“We were able to do that because the skipper was so calm,” he also said.
He said that “orcas enjoy the thrill of the chase — so ideally we’d have kept still, but that wasn’t possible because of the winds.”
The British couple, who are qualified to charter and captain sailing boats, were on day two of a week-long course to clock up their sailing miles when the orcas hit, on Tuesday, May 2, just seven miles from the city of Tangier, SWNS said.
The couple had been napping in preparation for their night-watch duty when they felt banging on the hull.
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They then heard crew members shout, “Orcas! Orcas!” — so they rushed up to the deck.
At some point during the attack, the crew saw the orcas — six of them, at least, the crew said — chasing pieces of debris that looked like sponge in the water.
The orcas gave up the chase after an hour, but the steering on the boat failed — so the crew headed back to shore, as SWNS noted.
Once back at port, the crew realized that the debris was actually pieces from the rudder of the sailing yacht, a 46-foot Bavaria.
There had been previous reports of whales attacking boats in the area.
The couple will get another opportunity to do the course, Janet Morris said.
She added, “We were on the course to get experience, and we’ll know what to do if this happens again,” SWNS reported.
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The Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Europe and Africa, has been referred to previously as “orca alley” due to the large number of whales.
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There had been previous reports of whales attacking boats in the area, which has baffled scientists, the same report noted.