The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN)
SAWDN : MEDIA RELEASE:
SUNDAY, 26th JULY, 2015. CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC THAT WHALE ENTANGLED IN ROPE, FALSE BAY, FREED:
At 15h30, Saturday, 25th July, The South African Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) were activated to respond to approximately 100 metres off-shore of Sunny Cove, Fish Hoek, following reports of a Humpback whale suspected to be entangled in rope.
Earlier in the day, at around 08h00, Brent Walton, from Capri, jogging along the Fish Hoek cat walk noticed the Humpback whale appearing to be in difficulty. Brent's concern was that the whale seemed to be staying in the same place for a long time without moving. Brent contacted authorities who went to investigate but because whales are often seen close inshore and basking in the sun there in that area it appeared that the whale was not in trouble and later, at around 15h00 Brent returned to the scene by car to check on the whale and after observing the whale, again appearing to be remaining exactly where he had seen it earlier, and convinced that the whale was in trouble he contacted the Sea Rescue emergency number and the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) alerted Sea Rescue Simonstown and the SAWDN were activated.
NSRI Simonstown dispatched two sea rescue craft, SPIRIT OF SAFMARINE III and SPIRIT OF SURFSKI II, carrying SAWDN trained volunteers and local SAWDN volunteer Dave Hurwitz dispatched his local whale watching craft SEA PANDA.
On arrival on the scene at around 16h30 it became clear that the 8 meter Humpback whale was anchored and trapped to the sea bed by Whelk trap lines.
A rope appeared to be entangled around the whales tail and the line was anchored to the sea bed by most likely the lines between the whelk traps which had snarled around the whales tail effectively meaning that the whales tail (bottom side) was trapped under water to the sea bed and only the front of the whale could reach the surface for air with difficulty but with the tide flooding it meant that perhaps at the approaching high tide the whale would be submerged beneath the sea surface and unable to breath.
At the earlier high tide we suspect that the whale had the strength to pull on the rope hard enough to surface the top part of its body for air but now with the whale appearing to be tired and lethargic it became a race against time to try to cut the rope from the tail which was at least 6 to 7 meters below the surface and out of reach of the specialised cutting poles.
To try to compensate for the dilemma grappling hooks with cutting edged hooks were placed in the water and trawled behind the sea rescue craft to try to snare the responsible rope line (or rope lines) entangled around the whales tail.
During the delicate operation, and making every effort to avoid hooking the grappling hooks around the whale itself, which may have caused risk of injury to the whale, the operation continued into the night.
Realising the severity and the desperation of the situation the SA Navy were placed on alert to come to assist.
During the trawling of the grappling hooks one of the edges hooked the rope but the thickness of the rope caused the extra strength stainless steel hook to bend beyond repair.
At this stage the Whelk Trap company, on hearing of the desperate situation, dispatched two of their craft, the ALBATROSS and the PUFFIN. They began to haul up their whelk trap lines in an awesome effort to try to find the line responsible for snaring the whale.
It appeared that their effort assisted as the whale seemed to finally get some movement.
During the dual effort, while the two Whelk trap boats raised the Whelk trap lines (about a kilometre from where the whale was), and with one of the sea rescue craft trawling the SAWDN grappling hooks, SAWDN appeared to be able to cut a line using the grappling hook trawling on rope.
By now, well into the night, and using the sea rescue boats search lights to illuminate the area, the whale appeared to be moving more freely and gaining strength and on closer observation no more lines could be found on the whale and although cautiously optimistic it appears that the joint effort has freed the whale successfully.
As a precautionary measure SEA PANDA, ALBATROSS and PUFFIN will patrol the area today, Sunday, 26th July, to try to locate the whale and double check that it has no more lines around it.
Brent has been commended for going to the extra effort of checking on the whale that he had thought to be in trouble earlier in the day.
By Midday on Sunday no sign of the whale has been found and SAWDN remain optimistic that the effort last night has saved the whale.
The Whelk boats ALBATROSS and PUFFIN and the skippers and crews of the sea rescue boats are commended for their efforts during the SAWDN operation last night.
SAWDN are urging the public and boaters to report any suspicions of whales entangled but not to get involved in trying to help the whales but to rather alert the necessary authorities.
SAWDN who are trained to intervene will respond.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN WHALE DISENTANGLEMENT NETWORK IS A VOLUNTEER NETWORK THAT BEGAN IN 2006 MADE UP OF VOLUNTEERS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS - OCEANS AND COASTS, NSRI, THE DOLPHIN ACTION AND PROTECTION GROUP, TELKOM MARITIME RADIO SERVICES, SA NATIONAL PARKS, THE SA POLICE SERVICES, RESEARCH ORGANISATIONS, THE NATAL SHARKS BOARD, TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARKS, WEST COAST WILDLIFE RESCUE AND A HOST OF VARIOUS MARINE AND ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS.
Picture by Doug Drysdale.
Picture by Doug Drysdale.
Picture Wendy Crowther.