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After being successfully lured from the docks by a tug it mistook for its “mommy” – a young humpback whale has stayed safely out at sea.
The one-year-old 8m whale was at the centre of a combined services rescue effort early on Monday when it became trapped in Table Bay harbour.
Rescuers arrived at midnight to find the whale wedged between the hull of the MV Explorer – a mobile university docked at E Berth in Duncan Dock – and the quayside.
Oceans and Coasts Management’s Mike Meyer said the mammal had become disorientated and scared.
Its attempts to dislodge itself resulted in it getting stuck between the vessel and the tyre buffers lining the dock as it thrashed to and fro.
The whale damaged its mouth probably caused by nudging against the tyre fenders, National Sea Rescue Institute spokesman Craig Lambinon said.
Meyer said the only way out was for the whale to reverse towards a widening gap between the ship and the quay.
Using poles and flashes of torchlight, rescuers tried to direct it through the gap, but it would not budge.
Meyer called for assistance and teams from the National Sea Rescue Institute, Metro EMS and police arrived.
The MV Explorer was moved to make space for the whale to swim away and police diver Douglas Jones plunged into the dark water and started pushing the animal.
The policeman’s shove did the trick. Flanked by a pair of inflatable boats, with Jones swimming next to it, the whale was finally free to swim out.
However, the rescue effort remained uncertain for a while longer when the whale tried to return to its original position.
That was until it noticed the tug Merlot – which had been called in to move the MV Explorer.
Meyer said that in its distressed and disorientated state, the whale must have mistaken the boat for its mother, because it started following it out to sea.
The rescue was concluded at around 4am.
At the time of going to print, Meyer said the whale had not been sighted again.
Its size and apparent good health meant that there was a good chance it would not become trapped or beach again.
“I was impressed by everyone who helped with the rescue operation and their willingness to go out of the way to make sure the whale got out of the dock,” he said.