A British sailor says a group of killer whales seemed to be trying to bite her yacht apart as they rammed it for over an hour off the coast of Spain.
A video shared on social media by April Boyes, 31, shows the group of orcas closing in on the yacht before slamming into it repeatedly.
Screams of terror can be heard from the four-person crew as the orcas destroy the rudder and pierce the hull, forcing those on board to bail out incoming water as they issue frantic mayday calls for help.
The attack is one of a growing number by orcas around Gibraltar and it is believed that one female killer whale, traumatised by an encounter with a boat, has been training others to prey on them.
“It’s like they are biting it apart,” Ms Boyes says in the video posted on her Instagram page .
Read more: Inquiry into killer whale attacks off Spain
A desperate male crew member can be heard calling for help on the radio, saying: “We need assistance immediately, we are sinking, we are sinking.” Another is seen battling to empty the rising water from the yacht’s engine room.
A Spanish rescue boat and a helicopter finally came to the aid of the 66ft British-registered vessel and it was towed to the port of Barbate, Cadiz, for repairs.
Ms Boyes said: “What started off as a seemingly unique encounter ended with orcas breaking off our rudder from the boat, then proceeding to tear bits off the boat for an hour.
“A huge hole in the hull meant we had water ingress to other parts of the boat and the engine room and I can honestly say it was a scary experience. We are all safe, I’m feeling grateful for the coastguard.”
There have been at least 20 orca attacks on small vessels off Gibraltar this month alone.
This week it emerged that a female killer whale called White Gladis may have taught other orcas to attack vessels.
Scientists think an incident in which White Gladis may have collided with a vessel or was caught in illegal fishing nets led to her aggression.
On May 2, around six orcas reportedly rammed the hull of a Bavaria 46 cruiser yacht on the Strait of Gibraltar.
Janet Morris and Stephen Bidwell, both 58, from Cambridge, were on the yacht. Mr Bidwell told The Daily Telegraph: “A clearly larger matriarch was definitely around and was almost supervising.”
Alfredo López Fernandez, an orca researcher at the Atlantic Orca Working Group, told livescience.com: “The orcas are doing this on purpose.
“Of course, we don’t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day.”