Revenge of the Orcas

Saturday, June 17, 2023 1:51 PM

Sometimes, fact really is stranger than fiction. I recently came across a fascinating PBS News Hour story about pods of orcas attacking and sinking vessels off the Iberian Peninsula. Scientists are generally baffled by the behavior, which is unique to this distinct subpopulation. One theory to explain the coordinated attacks? Revenge! Some experts believe that an orca matriarch named White Gladys suffered a traumatic injury inflicted by a boat and is now coaching members of her pod on how to fight back against the insidious man-made intruders. Orcas don't attack humans in the wild directly. But these particular killer whales have become effective yacht-killers.

Some marine biologists believe that these hull-hammering and rudder-wrecking incidents are simply examples of orcas becoming overly exuberant during play. Maybe so...but I'm mesmerized by the revenge theory nonetheless.

In my eco-fiction trilogy, Aquarius Rising, orcas are smart, savvy, and detemined to adapt to a world irrevocablly altered by human-induced climate change. They defend their territory aggressively in concert with the Orcans: a human-orca hybrid species made up of proud warrior clans who fear nothing below or above the waves. Killer whales regard the Orcans as their half-brothers and half-sisters, their kindred. Together, they patrol the Arctic waters and show no mercy to uninvited guests.

Real-world killer whales (actually the planet's largest dolphins) striking terror into the hearts of sailors in the Strait of Gibraltar — asserting their dominance as the ocean's apex predator, even over the humans whose technology threatens their way of life — resonate with me. They remind me of the fictional characters with whom I spent so many hours as I labored to realize the world of Aquarius. Are these creatures merely playful giants, inflicting unintended havoc...or are they fighting back against an enemy that continues to threaten their existence? At this point, no one knows for certain. But I know which story I choose to tell. If you're interested in exploring the possibilities, dive into the Aquarius Rising Trilogy and meet Leptonyx, Monodon, and other fierce members of the Orcan tribe. But approach them with caution, and with respect; as a dirt-swimmer, they may not be inclined to accept your presence until you prove yourself both brave and honorable!