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


2006-02-04 14:51:35

Report of the rescue attempts of the Sperm Whale at Spurn Head

On Saturday morning Simon received a telephone call from Humber Coastguard informing him of a large Whale swimming in the mouth of Humber estuary. He was asked to contact BDMLR in case the Mammal stranded. After receiving the call he rang Tony Woodley who thought it was a wind up mission. It wasn't to long before a second call from the Coastguard was received stating that The Whale had now stranded.

After discussing with Tony and starting to make his way towards the scene, as usual things sprang into place and calls started arriving the Office was manned by Trevor and Sue to assist in the calling of medics to the area.

During the journey he was able to speak to Humber Coastguard as they had called local Coastguard Rescue Teams from Easington,Hull & Withernsea to assist. They were on scene very quickly along with Humber lifeboat. With relaid information Humber MRCC were able to pass advice to the lifeboat and Coastguard on scene when able to do so due to a falling tide and with no medics on scene the lifeboat crew made in vein attempts to keep the Sperm Whale calm and place sheets over her and keep her wet, but unfortunately the tide falling forced them to leave.

On arrival we were met by Andrew Gibson Wildlife Officer at spurn point and offered the use of his hut and landline, Andrew was one of the first people to spot the whale. The scene was crowded with people wanting to look at the Whale, media had already began to arrive. After speaking with local a Coastguard officer it was established that the lifeboat had to move away as the tide fell. Which meant that we had no way of knowing if the Whale was still alive.

A decision was made to send a team of medics across the mud to assess the health of the Whale.

The Whale was on mud flats so after discussion with the Coastguard, a team of 4 medics dressed in Mud equipment, crossed the mud. On arrival, the Whale was laid on its port side, the blow hole was at least 2ft below the surface of the mud. A message was then past to the shore crew of British Divers and the Coastguard. Informing them the Whale had died.

A check was made of the Whale photographs taken for identification purposes and when measuring was done we then headed for shore where we were met by the Hull Coastguard mud rescue team and colleagues from Easington and Withernsea. A bottle of water was the first thing on our minds, thanks guys.

I received a call from Simon late morning and to be quite honest I thought he was playing a practical joke. I quickly established that he was serious and after finding out Si was enroute, breathed a big sigh of relief. I started to activate medics from Scarborough and Tyneside while my son Ryan, a junior medic, packed the car. Our journey time was approximately 1.5hrs to where the whale was. Gary Bolton from Scarborough had responded to the call out, and as Simon and I had already been called out to the same place earlier in the week to a sick seal, he followed us in his car. During the journey I received a ' sit rep' saying the tide was well on its way out and the Whale had now stranded on the mud approximately a mile from shore. By this time Simon, 'Rocky' Clarke, Sue Rhodes and Neil and Lisa Wray were on scene shortly followed by Barry getting 'suited and booted'. It was then confirmed to be a 30ft Sperm Whale.

When we arrived there were people everywhere.Coastguards, police and media, mingling with medics and public. Everyone was looking anxiously [BDMLR Medic Rocky Clark needing a bath !] in one direction and hardly daring to look, we joined them. I found Sue Rhodes who brought me up to date on the unfolding events. It had taken the team a good half hour to reach the whale due to the terrain and we were told they had already established that she had died. We were understandably upset. Sue explained that they were making an examination of the whale for record purposes. I can tell you it was raw that day and it was definitely a lazy wind.

After an hour or so, Sue called the team to remind them the tide had turned and that they were to start to make their way back. Soon we could see them making their way across the mud. It was difficult watching them and not being able to help. Eventually they reached terra firma looking like something the cat dragged in. They were covered head to toe in mud but the hardy press that were left, pounced on them wanting interviews and photos. The media satisfied, it was time for a much needed cuppa, a hose down and a debrief.

I think everyone there on Saturday were moved emotionally by the event. It was very sad that the whale died, but we as a team did everything in our power that was possible to save her. There was nothing more we could have done due to the locality of the stranding.

Simon and I would like to say a huge thank you to all the medics that were involved today.Whether or not you were involved physically or not, we appreciate your commitment and moral support. We would also like to thank Andrew Gibson for his help and a special thankyou to Humber Coastguard, Coastguard teams on scene and The Humber Life Boat Crew for their assistance.

Beverley & Simon Drayton
Humberside and North Yorkshire Area Co-ordinators