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Napping couple were given rude awakening when killer whales rammed into boat

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A British couple napping on their boat while sailing in the Mediterranean Sea were woken up by six killer whales ramming into the vessel.

Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell, from Cambridge, were sailing a course off the coast of Morocco when they spotted a pod of orcas on May 2.

They were napping when they heard banging on the hull and the crew screaming, ‘Orcas! Orcas!’.

Orcas, commonly called killer whales despite being members of the same family as dolphins, are apex predators who chow down on fish and large whales.

Despite the sinister-sounding name, there’s no record of an orca ever killing a human in the wild and attacks, in general, are rare.

Scientists have a simple reason for this: killer whales tend to hang out in cold, high-latitude regions where humans don’t tend to be.


But when at least six orcas began crashing into Janet and Stephen’s boat for an hour, it was difficult for the crew not to be a little scared.

Business consultant Janet, 58, said: ‘I couldn’t believe it when I saw them – it’s extremely rare. We were sitting ducks.

‘We were amazingly calm but underneath we were thinking, “Oh my god”.

‘Because everyone was calm it felt okay, but we were petrified, it wasn’t until afterwards that we talked about being very scared.

‘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

‘The captain was very calm and orderly, which got everyone through.’

Photographer Stephen, 58, said everyone on board did their best to keep calm as anxiety and fear can be ‘infectious’.

‘Orcas enjoy the thrill of the chase, so ideally we’d have kept still,’ he said, ‘but that wasn’t possible because of the winds.’

After an hour, the killer whales swam off but the steering on the boat had failed – a big issue for any vessel in adverse conditions – so they had to head back to port.

The massive mammals were swimming around seven miles from Tangier, a port city in northwestern Morocco.

This is in a patch of sea known as the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates the mainland of Europe and Africa, and is a well-known orca hotspot.

Janet and Stephen later realised the pod of orcas had been chasing pieces of debris – the sponge-like rudder of their 46-foot sailing yacht Bavaria.

Previous reports of killer whales ‘attacking’ sailboats in the region have seen rudders ripped off, boats sunk and scientists scratching their heads.

Scientists don’t tend to use the word ‘attack’ to describe these incidents; humans aren’t on their menu as they’re picky eaters, preferring tuna and squid, and people don’t exactly look like fish either.

Some suggest that the orcas are mesmerised by boat propellers and, when they’re switched off out at sea, get frustrated and try to break the rudder.

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