‘Gladys’ strikes again: Spanish coastguard launch rescue mission after orcas smash hole in side of yacht in Gibraltar Strait  

THE orca pod known as ‘Gladys’ struck again on the weekend, sinking another yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar.

It marks the first shipwreck of the year as a result of the whales after an apparent lull in their destructive behaviour, which was first documented in May 2020.

The Spanish Coast Guard reported that two crew members of the sailboat Alboran Cognac sent out an SOS distress call on Sunday at 9am, setting the scene for a frantic rescue mission.

The sailors reported the killer whales ramming the hull of their vessel in Moroccan waters near Tangier at the southern entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar.

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An orca attacking the rudder of a boat

The pleasure boat was able to accommodate up to 12 people in its five cabins, bathrooms, galley and saloon before its untimely demise.

The pod of orcas – highly skilled in disabling yachts – targeted the boat’s rudder, leaving the crew increasingly stranded out at sea.

But it was not until one blow ruptured the hull of the 15-metre vessel that the situation grew more serious.

A coast guard helicopter was scrambled and a nearby tanker, MT Lascaux, was requested to divert to aid the stricken sailboat.

Moroccan maritime authorities instructed the Alboran Cognac to don life jackets and activate their AIS (Automatic Identification System) as the boat started taking on water catastrophically.

READ MORE: Orcas sink yacht off the coast of Spain: Passengers suffer harrowing 45 minute attack by a pod of killer whales

The Alboran Cognac sail boat. Credit: Tubber

The Strait is one of the busiest maritime seaways in the world and although seven vessels have been sunk by the orca pod that transits the region, crews have always been rescued before finding themselves in the open water with the apex predators.

Within an hour of the distress call going out, the two crew members were safely removed to the MT Lascaux, which took them to Gibraltar.

The Alboran Cognac was abandoned to drift in the seas until it eventually sank under the waves.

‘Gladys’ is the name for the pod of 15 orcas which have come to haunt the dreams of sailors of sailboats, catamarans and fishing boats in the Strait.

Marine biologists have been at pains to stress that the pod’s seemingly aggressive patterns of behaviour are not in fact attacks but merely playful ‘learned behaviour’.

The months of April to August are thought to represent a heightened threat of unwanted orca encounters due to the arrival of bluefin tuna in the area.

Gibraltar News – The Olive Press Spanish Newspaper