Emergency services battle for 8 hours to save beached whale

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Emergency services battle for 8 hours to save beached whale

Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Grimsby Telegraph

EMERGENCY services have praised each other for their valiant efforts in rescuing a 30ft whale stranded at Immingham Docks yesterday.

About 50 emergency workers faced a race against time to free the 15-tonne creature from thick mud after it became beached at 4am.

The rescue – thought to be the largest-scaled animal rescue in the area’s recent history – saw 20 members of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and Humberside Fire And Rescue battle for eight hours in the mud and icy water while the HM Coastguard, Cleethorpes RNLI the RSPCA and Swanbridge Veterinary Hospital supported them from the ground.

Rocky Clark, of the BDMLR, organised the rescue and praised crews’ determination to save the animal.

He said: “I am over the moon. She is a whale and shouldn’t be in some mud flat in a dock; she belongs in the sea.

“Humans have an affinity towards animals and when you get a whale stranded, human nature is incredible, everyone wants to help and get a positive outcome. Now there is an animal swimming free, who, without the help of everyone here, would have died.”

It is thought the whale became stranded after it was startled by a passing vessel.

Another Minke whale was also spotted swimming in the River Humber, however, as they are solitary species, it is not known if the two are related.

The alarm was raised to Humber Coastguard at 8am by Captain Steve McCann, of the Sviter Alma.

The tide, which was lower than normal, was not due in until 1.30pm – by which time it would have been too late for the whale, and it would have had to have been put to sleep.

But rescuers dug a 40ft trench out to the tide, allowing more water to flood in and buoy the creature up. Using brute force, they turned the gigantic animal on its belly, protecting its blow hole, and guided it into deeper waters.

Neil Fowler, risk reduction crew manager for North Lincolnshire Fire And Rescue, spent eight hours in the water and was elated the whale was saved.

He said: “It was incredible to be part of. The conditions were difficult. We grew incredibly tired and she was thrashing out a lot but it is so rewarding to know we saved her life.”

After escaping the mud, the whale hit a metal pipe running through the dock and, although made her getaway, experts say the next 24 hours are “crucial” to the whale’s survival.

RSPCA National Wildlife co-ordinator Geoff Edmund, who was at the scene, said: “Everyone worked really hard and hopefully the result will remain successful. However, the next 24 hours will be crucial. It is now down to the test of time.

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