A NAVY yacht has been damaged after a close call with a pod of orca whales while sailing off northern Spain.
The ‘Mirfak’, a 12-metre long catamaran used by the Spanish Navy, was on its way to a regatta 3.7 kilometres from the Galician coastline when it attracted the attention of the curious mammals.
The whales circled the boat for a number of minutes, passing close to the catamaran’s hulls and swimming underneath the sailors.
In one of the passes, one of the six-metre long giants tagged the boats rudder, causing damage.
The boat carried on to its destination, the Baiona area of Galicia where it will undergo repairs ready to compete in the popular Prince of Asturias Regatta.
A group of killer whales had already been spotted days before by the Salvamento Maritimo and biologists, and a warning was issued at 7.33pm on Sunday to fellow vessels to stay clear of the area for fear of attack and for the protection of the pod.
It is thought the group of up to seven Orcas were on the hunt for broad-fin tuna, and are known to be aggressive when feeding.
While attacks on humans and vessels are rare, the CEMMA Cetacean research association has reminded ocean goers that interaction with these creatures is prohibited under Royal Decree.
Cemma is now investigating the interaction as to whether the whales were ‘attacking’ the boat or the sailors intercepted the group as they were on the hunt for food.
A French vessel had a similar encounter the same day in the Rias Baixas area of north-west Spain.
The meeting left the boat with marks, consistent with the rubbing of orcas against its hull.
Alfredo Lopez, a biologist at Cemma explained that it is not unusual to see Orcas in this stretch of water as they migrate north from the Gulf of Cadiz to the Bay of Biscay.
“We’re looking into the matter but we don’t yet have all the information we need to draw a clear conclusion,” Lopez told Voz de Galicia.
“These interactions are very rare and aren’t something we’ve seen here before.” he added.