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


2006-06-28 10:52:44

BDMLR Team return from whale disentanglement course

A team of 5 from BDMLR were funded, by IFAW, to go to the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Cape Cod USA to learn how to tackle the problem of entangled whales. Cape Cod has major lobster fishery and the whale population get tangled in the pot lines etc.

CCS have become a lead authority in the solving of these problems, so if you want to be the best get taught by the best!!. We were there for 5 days in 6 days in total. Day 1 was spent with David and Brian looking at their whales. It was incredible!! What more can I say?

Day 2 and 3 were spent in the class room looking at case studies and learning the methodology of the work. How the approaches were made and how the assessments are arrived at. We also had the chance to see the actual cutting of the entanglements. CCS teams all wear helmet cameras during these rescues. It was during this time that we got to handle the equipment, the special grapples, clips and 'flying knives'. It all seemed fairly straight forward, we had to throw a grapple a t rope and catch it, then we used clips and finally knives on poles. Piece of cake, in the car park... But Oh dear it got harder.

Try standing in the front of a small inflatable boat (no hands) at around 5 or 6 knots. Then imagine throwing a 4lb grapple a rope being dragged through the water. If you manage to throw it the 30 feet or so you have to haul the rope in like mad. And secure it in the bow of the boat. Then you are on the 'Nantucket Sleigh ride' (Google it). If not you have to coil the and start again. It’s very tiring and bruising! Once you are attached to the trailing fishing gear you have to deploy the orange buoy. This allows you to throw the 'control line' overboard in an emergency and get it back later (we did have such an emergency and a graphic example of how quickly things go wrong when Geoff Hammock and I got into a bit of bother, this led to muggings having to leave the boat via the back door OUCH.

In the videos you will see the control rope buoy being deployed and the team pulling themselves up the rope until they are actually attached to the fishing gear. It is from this position that the cutting can take place. It is vital not to cut the rope you are attached to!! (bit like sawing the wrong branch off a tree, you know the one you are sitting on!)

This is all very tiring work and we will need to practice, as a team, to build on our skills and make sure the next time we get an entangled whale we can give it our best shot. Enjoy the little videos. They were only taken on my little digital camera so they are not great. A clue, look at the orange buoy. Notice how it is being dragged under the water then try to imagine how hard it was to pull yourself up the rope. NOT ONCE but repeatedly. There were 5 big blokes ready for bed most nights at 9.

Really big thanks to all at CCS. They were great and do a fantastic job. There will be a longer article in the next newsletter, with some still pics too I hope.

Mark Stevens