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Herd of whales harasses solo rowers in the Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland

Herd of whales harasses solo rowers in the Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland

A British rower crossing the Atlantic alone suddenly had plenty of company when a huge pod of whales surrounded his boat – a stunning scene captured on video.

Tom Waddington, a UK-based ski coach who documented his 2,000 nautical mile journey to raise money for mental health charity Mind, posted the encounter on his Instagram account.

“What a special experience,” he said as he watched the whales blow bubbles and rock the boat as they played around him about 100 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland on Sunday.

Waddington said he believes the herd consisted of more than 1,000 long-finned pilot whales.

“I love it,” he added, “but I’m afraid they’ll hit the rudder.”

Shortly afterwards, one of the excited whales crashed into the side of his boat and shook him.

As the Washington Post has previously reported, there have been hundreds of dangerous boat rammings by orcas in recent years. They were later portrayed as deep-sea villains who wanted to reclaim the oceans.

In 2023, marine biologist Mónica González explained the latest theories about why orcas were attacking ships off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. (Video: John Farrell/The Washington Post)

While experts are not sure what is causing the orca incidents, a leading theory suggests that the killer whales causing chaos are largely off the Iberian Peninsula are just playful, bored teenagers. Another theory: The orcas want revenge for the danger of getting entangled in fishing lines.

Luckily for Waddington, the pilot whales left his oars intact. After two hours of trying to row away from the pod, they finally left him alone – safe and (more or less) dry.

“I can’t believe it. It’s an incredible sight, but also so scary,” he said.