British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2007-02-15 14:01:00

Porpoise stranded on River Humber - Easington

We received a call at home at 5.10pm from a member of the public who’s wife is a coastguard already in attendance informing us that he had seen a stranded porpoise on the edge of the river Humber half an hour ago describing it as ‘barely alive’. He informed us of its location and that the Coastguard we on scene. We decided to assess the situation before contacting Alan as we thought it unlikely that the porpoise would still be alive due to their temperament. After a long muddy walk along the Humber bank we were pleasantly surprised and I have to say shocked to find that the porpoise was still alive. We donned our drysuits, (Neil, Jordan and I), assessed the porpoise as best we could in the difficult conditions. Jord sat talking to the porpoise to keep it calm, only he brought about a chorus of laughter when he asked the porpoise what football team it supported! It was now 5.35 and getting very dark, the use of torches is extremely difficult when working with porpoises as their eyes are extremely sensitive to the light. Knowing that time was imperative, the tide was on its way out and Neil had left his phone in his trousers pocket, in his drysuit, it would have taken too long to contact Alan and at this stage it would have taken too long to get other medics on scene. With the Coastguard on the Humber with us we knew that there was no safety issue, as they were there supporting us. We KY gelled the porpoise’s blow hole and set off into the river hoping to re-float it, with Humber Coastguard monitoring us. We walked out through the thick mud for about 1Km, carrying the porpoise in a sling with the river getting no deeper and the tide going out as fast as we were walking. The porpoise was still very alert and active we saw this as a positive sign, (Rocky later informed us that this could also be that the porpoise was not happy about returning to the water due to injury or ill health, adding that you do have to look at this as a positive when you are in the thick of trying to rescue). At least the weight was taken off its internal organs, which is necessary in trying to keep a porpoise alive. We soon realised that this was going to be an ineffective way to re-float. Its breathing was stable and calm, unlike Neil and mine. We returned with the porpoise near to the bank in a pool to enable the weight to stay off its organs. I (Lisa) remained with the porpoise, talking to it and keeping it calm while Neil made a few phone calls to try to find another solution. He spoke to Alan to ascertain the availability of other medics and a possible transport vehicle if it was deemed necessary. Neil also spoke to Rocky, whose advice was exemplary as always. A sea release appeared to be the only feasible option. Neil, Rocky and Alan began ringing around trying to organise transport to move the porpoise onto the beach to enable us to re-float it into the sea. Meanwhile I sat in the dark 110 metres out in the Humber with the porpoise who sadly decided it had had enough and died. What a sad end.

We left the scene at 8.00pm.

Rocky rang us later that evening to offer support and ask if we could get a blubber sample to send to the Natural History Museum for analysis.

16th February 2007

We went back on the Humber to find the porpoise and take the sample. On inspection there were a number of old injuries that may have caused the porpoise to beach itself deliberately, which is often the reason for single stranding. This is how Jordan spent the morning of his 13th birthday, different I guess, happy birthday son.

We would like to say thank you to Rocky for his support and advice, priceless as ever, even though he did nearly make me cry when offered support the previous night.

Lisa, Neil and Jordan Wray
Marine Mammal Medics
East Yorkshire

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