Scientists battling orcas sinking yachts tackle problem with heavy metal music

Scientists battling orcas sinking yachts tackle problem with heavy metal music

Sailors in the southwest of Europe are facing an unusual challenge – an increase in killer whale attacks on boats.

Some have found a surprising solution to deter these attacks: playing loud heavy metal music through underwater speakers.

In recent years, sailors in the region have been dealing with an unprecedented number of killer whale incidents, leading to vessels capsizing despite efforts from naval authorities. Seeking solutions, boat operators have turned to online forums and social media for advice.

One unconventional method gaining attention involves playing curated thrash and heavy metal playlists.

A Spotify playlist titled “Metal for Orcas” has been shared on platforms like Facebook groups and Telegram chats. Songs like “The Blood of Power,” “Infinite Terror,” “Stretched and Devoured,” and “Exceptionally Sadistic” are included.

In the “Orca Attack Reports” Facebook group, which has around 60,000 members, members of the marine community share their experiences with killer whales and exchange ideas on how to deter them. Another tactic discussed involves throwing sand into the water and then rapidly accelerating the boat’s engine.

Despite these strategies, there is no scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness in preventing killer whale attacks. Individual accounts vary, with some sailors claiming success with loud music while others report no positive results.

The increasing frequency of these interactions has intrigued animal behaviour scientists. The Group for the Observation and Study of Aquatic Mammals (GTOA) reports a significant rise in aggressive interactions with orcas, recording 207 incidents in 2022 compared to 52 in 2020 during a five-month period.

One recent incident involved a pod of orcas targeting a yacht in Gibraltar for about 45 minutes, resulting in the boat sinking.

The orcas focused their attack on the yacht’s steering fin, causing extensive damage and leakage.

Amidst the uncertainty, some sailors express concern that more drastic measures, like using fireworks, may be employed, posing risks to both humans and the underwater animals. The mystery surrounding the orcas’ behaviour leaves sailors and scientists alike searching for effective solutions.

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This article by Alessandra Scotto Di Santolo was first published by The Express on 17 November 2023. Lead Image: Killer whales have been increasingly attacking boats in the past few years (Image: Getty).

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