"Ultimately, the whales would catch on." Sailors have been using extreme metal to try and scare away aggressive orcas - except they may actually be attracting them instead

An orca in the sea
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Let's be honest: as much as we all love a shark, orcas are definitely in with a shout of earning the title of Most Metal Animal In The Sea. Firstly, they're absolutely massive. Secondly, they feast on other animals. Thirdly, they wear corpsepaint. Fourthly, they're nicknamed killer whales! The defence rests.

All jokes aside, you'd be pretty terrified if a pod of these big animals came hurtling towards you while you were out at sea, and with various (sometimes unsubstantiated) news reports emerging this year of aggressive orcas attacking boats, you can understand why sailors are trying out new techniques to deter them from coming too close. 

One unexpected tactic that is currently doing the rounds in the marine community is to blast heavy metal at the fearsome sea mammals. According to a new report in the New York Times, Captain Florian Rutsch and his crew found themselves in uncomfortably close proximity to a pod of orcas around the Iberian Peninsula earlier this month, and attempted to drive them off with a specially curated playlist of metal bangers titled Metal For Orcas. The mix included cuts by death metal mainstays such as Aborted, Dying Fetus and Ingested, and was played via an underwater speaker.

Unfortunately for the crew, it didn't work: the orcas attacked the rudder of their catamaran, causing enough damage to leave the boat stranded and its occupants requiring rescuing via local authorities. Captain Rutsh described the situation as "scary", adding: "No one knows what works, what doesn’t work.”

In their own investigation into the subject, Business Insider spoke to Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia, who explained that playing such loud, abrasive music could, in fact, inadvertently attract the orcas to the boat. "Initially, the playing of loud sounds underwater might mask the signature sounds of sailboats," he said, "but ultimately the whales would catch on and use it to more easily locate vessels playing it."

Others within the sailing community insist that heavy metal works as an orca deterrents, with one user in the Orca Attack Reports Facebook group stating that "rattling the hull by playing full volume east European thrash metal" helped them keep the animals at bay. Others have pointed to both metal and dance music as useful repellents.

The data seems a little unclear on this one, so for now, we'll say this: heavy metal might make a kickass soundtrack for your boat trip, but we probably wouldn't suggest you rely on it to scare away massive sea creatures. Plus, lest we forget: they were here first, to be fair.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.