A Humpback whale appears to be staring at its rescuers as it rests it head on the gunnel of a rescue craft. Picture: NSRI
A Humpback whale appears to be staring at its rescuers as it rests it head on the gunnel of a rescue craft. Picture: NSRI

Whale thanks volunteers after rescue

By ANA And Staff Reporter Time of article published Aug 29, 2016

Share this article:

Cape Town - A humpback whale appeared to show its gratitude to volunteers who freed it from entanglement in rope and fishing equipment off Cape Point on Sunday by resting its massive head on the gunnel of the rescue craft for about 20 minutes.

Volunteers from the SA Whale Disentanglement Network (SAWDN) had responded to reports from fishing boats of a whale entangled in rope and flotation buoys near Rocky Banks off Cape Point on Sunday morning.

The network’s spokesman Craig Lambinon said two rescue from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Simon's Town were dispatched carrying volunteers. A sub-adult 9-metre male Humpback whale was found about five nautical miles offshore of Smitswinkel Bay in False Bay, heading slowly towards Gordon's Bay.

SAWDN head Mike Meyer said: “Using tried techniques the rescue craft approached the entangled whale from behind and the SAWDN team, using a grappling hook line, gently placed the line, attached to the sea rescue craft, onto a loop in the entangled rope, but as the pressure of the sea rescue craft, now effectively being towed by the whale, increased, the whale appeared anxious and curious about the added impediment and thrashed around.”

To distract the animal the larger sea rescue craft moved up to head off the whale, allowing the SAWDN team to begin cutting at the rope wrapped around the whale. All of the rope and the flotation buoy was cut, removed, and recovered.

The operation started at 9.35am and was completed a few minutes before 4pm.

Meyer said: “Once all rope and the flotation buoy was removed, in a most incredible reaction from the animal, the whale swam right up alongside the sea rescue craft, almost hugging the rescue boat (all motors had been switched off) and he gently placed his head on the gunnel of the sea rescue craft.

“The whale remained there for almost 20 minutes seemingly staring at his rescuers.

“All involved described a surreal and emotional moment shared between the SAWDN volunteer team and this beautiful animal.”

Another young Humpback whale was rescued by the network’s volunteers using similar methods when it became entangled in fishing rope and lines that anchored it to the seabed near the Cape Point lighthouse last week.

After the whale was freed by the team, it swam off and joined other whales circling the area.

ANA and Cape Argus

Share this article: