Sailors Blast Heavy Metal To Scare Killer Whales Away

(VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Dana Abizaid Contributor
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Sailors near the Iberian Peninsula have started blasting heavy metal music to deter orcas from ramming into and sinking their boats, Business Insider reported Saturday.

A German sailor told the The New York Times (NYT)  his crew blared a heavy metal playlist through underwater speakers to scare off orcas, but the strategy has proved to be a failure so far.

Using loud tunes to scare off orcas could actually help the whales find the boats, Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia, told Business Insider. (RELATED: Orcas Strike Again, Sink Polish Yacht In Gibraltar)


“Initially, the playing of loud sounds underwater might mask the signature sounds of sailboats — but ultimately the whales would catch on and use it to more easily locate vessels playing it,” Trites told the outlet.

Trites also noted orcas hear at higher frequencies than humans, making it useless to try to drown out the sounds of sailboats the whales have come to recognize. Trite added heavy metal music could only discourage orcas from coming near boats if it were blared so loud it injured the animals and resulted in hearing loss, Business Insider reported.

“The biggest problem with blasting music underwater of any kind is that it is ultimately just adding more noise pollution to the ocean which can have detrimental effects on other marine life,” Trites said.

Scientists have not yet developed a surefire way to stop Iberian orcas from ramming boats, but there are some ways sailors can stay safe during encounters with the maritime beasts, according to Business Insider. Some methods include staying away from orcas, shutting down boat engines and dropping sails, holding tight in case rammed and waiting until the orcas swim away before firing up engines and sailing again.

“At this point, the jury is still out assessing exactly what is going on, and what can be done (if anything) to stop this adherent targeting of sailboats by this small group of killer whales,” Trites told Business Insider.