Pants on Fire!
"Japanese whaling crew eaten alive by killer whales, 16 dead."

Bloggers on Saturday, February 11th, 2017 in a headline

Tale of killer whales eating Japanese whalers is fake news

A fake story being shared on social media about Japanese whalers meeting an untimely end in the bellies of a pod of orcas may sound fishy for a reason — it is.

"Japanese whaling crew eaten alive by killer whales, 16 dead," shouts a horror-show headline on a Feb. 11, 2017, post on Facebook brought the post to our attention as potentially being fake as part of its efforts to eliminate false stories from its news feeds.

The story — which again, didn’t happen — recounts the fate of the hapless crew of the whaler MV Nisshin Maru, many of whom abandoned ship after a gas leak forced them to clear the deck.

The ship was supposedly stranded in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, off the coast of South Africa. In a twist of irony too dark to be true (because it isn’t), 16 whalers were swallowed by killer whales within a half hour of hitting the water.

The yarn cast a wide net, landing on several websites, with one version of the article posted as late as Feb. 12. But we didn’t take the bait.

The origin of this fish tale (yes, we know killer whales are mammals) goes all the way back to July 28, 2014. That’s when, a website known for posting contrived stories, first published the saga of the Nisshin Maru.

The story was pretty popular back then, too, because several media outlets wrote articles to point out it was a made-up story. Nearly all of them made reference to the site’s disclaimer, which reads, "All news articles contained within are fiction, and presumably fake news."

There’s no indication on the various posts we found identifying the story is fake. There’s also no mention that it is several years old.

We’ve noticed here at PolitiFact that some fake news stories seem to come back into the social media consciousness after a couple of years in limbo. We don’t know why this one returned to port after so long adrift, but the story is still anchored in fiction.

We rate it Pants On Fire!