Humans want to see the whales fight back, but scientists say they’re probably not in their revenge era, or “orcanizing” after all.
By Samantha Cole, June 16, 2023
Orcas are acting weird. Off the coast of Gibraltar, sailors say they’re “attacking” sailboats—specifically, slamming the sides of boats and pulling off rudders—rendering the vessels helpless in the water. Around U.S. shores, they’re showing up in unusual numbers this summer in Monterey Bay and off the coast of Nantucket.
All of this has Instagram’s most prolific Canva slideshow artists and ecosocialist Twitter meme accounts very excited, and it’s an appealing idea: At first glance, nature sure does seem to be fighting back, defending itself after decades of abuse by the shipping, fishing, and military industries. Killer whales have a lot to be bitter about, and few humans would fault them for plotting revenge.
Orcas are intelligent and complicated creatures, much like humans, so their actions can be difficult to interpret with definitive answers. But this isn’t brand-new behavior. They’ve been doing this for years, according to sailors and documented in a study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science in 2022 that looked at orca behavior in the Strait of Gibraltar.