Whale Rescue

Humpback Whale flukeThere is too much to say to simply write a small stone today! I just have to tell you about this wonderful experience.

We have just returned from a visit to my cousin and his wife who live on one of the Orkney islands off the north-most tip of Scotland.

Each year Radio Orkney holds an auction to raise money for ‘Children in Need’ and my cousin Dave had successfully bid on a boat trip around Scapa Flow donated by Orkan Adventures. He arranged this boat trip on our first full day on Orkney so that we could take the trip with them. Dave had suggested that they might take us when they were planning a diving trip to fish for scallops so there were also two divers on board.

We set off down the flow with the very knowledgable skipper, Magnus Woolham, pointing out the wartime sites and the wildlife and stopping off to put down the two divers. We returned later pick them up before we were taken to Lyness on the Island of Hoy for lunch and a visit to the wartime museum while the boat went off for another dive.

On our return trip we had to stop in a sheltered location to refuel. As we left the shelter we saw what we thought was a basking shark and went for a closer look, actually passing over it, but it was not too keen on our proximity and kept moving away. Not wishing to cause distress we left it alone without a positive identification and there is some suggestion that it may have been a whale shark – most unusual in those waters.

Then the skipper drew our attention to a whale fluke thrashing the water and we set off to investigate. It soon became obvious that the whale, a hump-back, was in some distress – the creature was making no progress through the water, the fluke thrashing was becoming increasingly feeble and the whale was barely able to break surface to breathe.

One of the divers, Magnus Spence went into the water with his snorkel gear to investigate and found that the whale was caught up in some old lobster creel lines, with the lines passing through its mouth. Every time the whale tried to surface it had to lift the weight of the creels off the sea bed, it was tiring fast and the line was causing injury to the corners of its mouth.

Magnus returned to the boat to don his scuba gear, while the second diver also readied himself to assist if needed. Magnus then returned to the water and by swimming underneath the whale he was able to climb up the creel lines and cut the line as near to the whale as he dared go, baring in mind the thrashing tail! Fortunately the line then ran freely through the whale’s mouth ‘like dental floss’ and the whale swam away.

Magnus’s prompt action, without regard to his own safety, almost certainly saved the whale’s life. It was a privilege to witness this encounter at such close quarters whilst being in company with those able to assist the creature in its distress. The encounter has been reported on Radio Orkney and on Radio Scotland, in the local and Scottish press and also, I understand, on the UK National News. There are also a couple of clips on Youtube – look for ‘Orkan Adventures Whale Rescue’ and ‘Skipper Frees 40ft Humpback Whale’.

This encounter is also the subject of my Elfje today on ‘Simply Elfje’.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. julespaige
    May 28, 2012 @ 13:11:23

    It is a holiday here in the states, so I’ve not much computer time today – I just wanted to say a big Bravo! And ‘Thank you’ to all involved in the rescue and the reporting of this wonderful ‘tail!’


  2. Louise
    May 28, 2012 @ 14:02:14

    Wow! That’s beautiful. What an absolutely amazing experience even to see a whale that close, let alone see one given another chance at life. Wonderful.


  3. carla
    May 28, 2012 @ 16:11:51

    What a wonderful story! It must have been such an exciting experience.


  4. Libby
    May 28, 2012 @ 18:59:08

    It was an amazing experience. We were so glad able to help and get the photos and video clips. Probably something I will never see again.


  5. Freya Pickard
    May 30, 2012 @ 11:57:07

    that is amazing Libby! what a thing to witness – I’m so glad the whale was freed…


  6. chris
    May 31, 2012 @ 18:04:22

    How wonderful that you were there, Libby! And so lucky for the whale that your skipper happened by at the right time. Three cheers for Magnus Spence!


  7. 1sojournal
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 14:25:44

    Wonderful adventure, and experience of a lifetime. These are the kinds of stories that help us to remember that not all human beings are thoughtless about the other creatures we share this earth with. Thanks Libby, glad to know you were a part of it.



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