When Boating & Nature Overlap - Penguin Hops Onboard to Avoid Orcas

By: Scott Way

Just because humans have the means to float above water doesn't mean we're impervious to what lurks below. If you spend enough time in nature, eventually it will hop onto the aft deck. Sometimes it's a friendly sea lion taking a break from swimming, but sometimes it's a marlin going airborne trying to break free from a line.

In the case of Antarctic explorers Matt Karsten and his wife Anna, their encounter involved a friendly penguin.... and his less friendly pursuers. Most wildlife interactions happen at the marina, and it usually involves freeloading seagulls and lazy sunbathing seals. For those who encounter serious wildlife under serious circumstances, it highlights the thin safety net between human recreationalists and wild animals. Or put another way, the fine line between onboard and overboard.


In the video below, a gentoo penguin being chased by orcas hops aboard a tender to avoid the melee. The inflatable tender is not the ideal place for a group of humans to be with a pod of orcas below. Karsten and his wife Anna were sightseeing for icebergs on the Gerlache Strait in Antarctica when the penguin joined the crew. It would be hard to blame the penguin. Of all things boaters (and penguins) should avoid below the surface, orcas and sharks make up the majority of the top 3 (I'm giving the 3rd spot to jellyfish). And of all the scenarios that can make a boater feel uneasy on the water, being in an inflatable raft in freezing water with a pod of hungry orcas underneath you ranks pretty high.


Check out the drama in the video below (the jump to safety after the chase happens around the 2:00 mark).

The chance encounter is a stern reminder about the overlap between boaters and the waterways they explore. Logic dictates if you spend time in the company of wild animals, eventually those animals will encroach upon you, as you do to them. A saltwater fisherman comes to expect trouble on the aft deck with gamefish like tuna or marlin. Whale watchers play a dangerous game trying to catch a breach on film, often in foolishly small boats, or even just kayaks. Science has recently learned that orcas have begun targeting boats intentionally.


Sometimes the encounters make for life changing experiences, in a good way. Sometimes they make for life altering experiences, like having your boat sunk by a whale.


If you'd like a refresher on the fine line between recreational boating and wildlife management, below are 15 events that reminded humanity that the ocean belongs to wild animals. We have two legs and no gills for a reason, after all.

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