VIDEO: 'It was like a horror film' – New Milton sailor Nathan Jones 'attacked' by 30 orca whales in Gibraltar straits
A LOCAL sailor said he felt he was “caught up in a horror film” when a pod of 30 orca whales repeatedly attacked the yacht he was crewing on.
Nathan Jones, 27, from New Milton, said the 25ft long mammals, which can weigh five tons each, attacked the luxury vessel for more than two hours.
“At one point it all went quiet, and I thought they had finally gone,” said Nathan. “Then I looked out to sea and spotted them about two miles away coming back. It was scary, a bit like that moment in Jaws when the shark returns.”
Nathan had left Ramsgate with two other crew to deliver the yacht to its owner in Lefkas, Greece, when the incident happened near the Gibraltar straits.
He said that when his crewmate Martin Evans told him there had been reports of a pod of killer whales playing around with boats in the area, he replied: “I think you’ve been watching too many horror films, mate."
Nathan, who grew up on the Isle of Wight, was asleep when the skipper of the yacht came to say it was "under attack" by the whales.
He said: “When I came up and saw all these awesome creatures around the yacht, it did feel like we were caught up in a horror film.
“When you hear the sound of a whale's blowhole right next to you, it’s really eerie.”
“We first tried motoring really slowly away from them, but they just kept coming. We had the automatic pilot on, but it went off because the whales were either biting or hitting the rudder.
“Coastguard advice in our situation is to turn off the engine and echo sounder and take the sails down.
“We then just had to sit it out.”
The crew could not steer anywhere as the orcas’ movements near the rudder meant no one could hold on to the wheel as it was being whipped around.
Nathan said: “We were thrashing from one side to the other. We had the life raft ready, as having no sails meant the yacht had lost its stability and it could start taking on water.
“It could then have sunk. There were a few moments when I thought we'd had it.”
When the whales appeared to be calming down, the crew ran up the sails to “try and creep away”.
When they had reached two miles away from the pod, they turned on the engine and “limped into Gibraltar" where it was found a big chunk of the rudder was missing.
Nathan flew back to England two days later but is now in Greece sailing another yacht.
A former mechanic, he is hoping to be able to take his yachtmaster exam at the end of the year.
He said: “You have to have completed 2,500 sea miles before you can take the exam. If we had made it to Lefkas, I would have managed 2,600.
“What happened has not put me off sailing at all. It’s made me even more determined to pass the exam.
“It’s also made me want do as much as I can to support whale conservation. They are absolutely magnificent, beautiful creatures.
“It’s their ocean, not ours. We humans don’t own it. I want to spread awareness about what is happening to them.
“I’ve seen enough of the fishing industry to know that whales’ traditional hunting and feeding grounds are being destroyed.”
“That’s what is probably driving the behaviour of pods like the one we encountered.
“Despite how scary it was, I also feel really privileged to have been able to see these amazing whales up so close. It really was an incredible experience.”