Saturday, 24 July 2010

Stranding season continues..

It seems to be a season of many strandings. On Wednesday this week a humpback whale was reported to us by Neels Dreyer to be stuck in shallows of the harbour in front of the fishing factories. The NDP team and John Paterson (Albatross Task Force) responded promptly and got on site to find several divers from Walvis Bay diving already in the water trying to guide the animal out to sea. After a little discussion with the TunaCor security officers to assure them we were there on legit business, John, Gwen Penry and I got our wetsuits on hopped in the water with the divers to help with the rescue attempt.

The whale was clearly unwell, covered in cyamids (whale lice), had a broken dorsal fin (probably from hitting into the jetty, it definitely wasn't a propeller cut) and was clearly disoriented, swimming at an angle, holding its head up and only going in circles. With much pushing we occasionally got the animal out of the shallows but it kept turning back to come lie on its belly. We attempted to the tow/guide the whale out of the shallows with help from the Walvis Bay diving boat, but although it got out a little way, it again came back.

The WBD boat had to leave but we got in two more boats from Mola Mola Tours and Henning DuPlessis (a local oyster farmer). These larger boats were more successful at pulling the whale further out of the jetty area, and eventually managed to get it past the moored ships. With some great driving by Rudi Hass and Eddie of Mola Mola and Henning - they managed to keep the whale from turning back to the shallows and guided her out in the deeper central bay area (last photo).

Once in the deeper water the whale paused to reoriented it self and seemed to wake up and head off strongly northwards. We were all hopeful that it was going to make it but unfortunately, on Thursday, the whale was reported re-stranded on the west side of the bay near the pump station.

The decision was taken at this point to let nature take it's course. Strandings are sad, but natural events and you can only perform so many rescue attempts (which are quite stressful for the whale) before admitting defeat.

I've put in some photos below, most taken by Lucille Chapuis, (one of our July interns) of the rescue operation in the harbour.

A big thankyou to Walvis Bay Diving, Mola Mola tours, Henning du Plessis and Tunacor for their help.

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