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


2007-07-20 11:04:24

Porpoise Rescue - St Fergus, Buchan

At 0510 this morning I received a phone call from Grampian Police to advise that they had come across a dolphin stranded on the sandbar at St. Fergus near Peterhead.

They had obtained my number from the BDMLR website and were unsure who to call.

I immediately sent out a group text message to try and get some willing volunteers and also made contact with Nick Duthie (Aberdeenshire Coordinator) and Elaine Roft (Montrose Coordinator). Both Nick and Elaine gave some helpful pointers and advice and set about trying to raise some help from their group members. Throughout the entire time, Grampian Police continued to call me up and relay information on the dolphin. I hitched up RU02 and headed off on the 10-mile drive to meet up with the police.

On arrival at the scene, PC Calvert was stood on the foreshore keeping an eye on the dolphin. I headed back to the trailer to get my drysuit and lifejacket on so that I could head out to the sandbar and begin to assess the dolphin. By this time it was apparent that it was actually a porpoise that had become stuck between the land and the sandbar and was trying to head back to sea, unfortunately it had to cross the sandbar to get there. When I got to the porpoise a short assessment of its condition was carried out to ascertain what actions should be taken. The porpoise was in very good condition and was very active whilst thrashing around in the water and trying to cross the sandbar. The porpoise was supported upright and blowhole kept free of the wash then moved in to deep water still on the inside of the sandbar. She was thrashing around in the water and then swam off trying to make a break for freedom but ended up on the beach. This was not an ideal situation as the breakers on the beach was beginning to cause signs of stress.

I asked if PC Calvert would support the porpoise whilst I headed back to RU02 to get some equipment to support her on the beach and then we would work her progressively back in to the water. PC Calvert did an excellent job supporting her upright, maintaining trenches, keeping moist and keeping the blowhole from becoming submerged – all this and he was in his best police uniform with waves breaking over his head at times!

When I got to the car park some locals had arrived for morning walks, they offered to help so I delegated them some equipment to carry down to the waters edge.

The porpoise was placed on the pontoon system and then moved out in to a deeper area of water where she was rocked back and forth and the tail fluke was also worked.

After a quick check on the usual signs I decided to go for it and take her a bit further out then release her. She was pointed in the direction to escape the sandbar and by this time the tide had rose considerably so things were looking hopeful.

Unfortunately she re-stranded and we got her back on the pontoon system. There was now slight bleeding from the tail fluke where she had caught it on a rock after ending up on the beach again and back in the surf. Medic Angi Long was now in attendance and let the PC Calvert go and get dried off.

We got her back in the deeper water on the pontoon system and after approximately 10 minutes and a quick check over we decided that we had best try again. The porpoise was getting tired had became stressed again due to re-stranding so we had our fingers crossed that this time she would make it away.

The pontoons were deflated and the tail fluke allowed room to splash around, the pontoons were then removed and she was off. She went around us in a big circle and then headed safely off in to the North Sea.

A good lookout was kept to ensure she never re-stranded and then the equipment was loaded up. Nick Duthie and the other team members were informed that they could stand down and I headed off to work.

Angi stayed on the beach and met with Nick when he arrived. They both kept a good lookout for a short while before Nick headed on up the beach by foot to see if he could see her.

Grampian police were informed that the incident had been resolved and the coastguards were also informed that the porpoise was back in the water. Further checks by my team and I will be carried out later today and this evening.

Many thanks must go to Grampian police for having such a vigilant eye and spotting the stranded porpoise, PC Calvert for getting very hands on in the water with the porpoise, Nick Duthie(Aberdeenshire Coordinator) for answering my early morning wake up call and heading up to assist, Elaine Roft(Montrose Coordinator) for organising her team of medics that were ready to attend at a minutes notice, they were Medic Willie Taylor, Medic Allan Muir, and Elaine. Thanks also to Medic Angi Long for getting involved/keeping a watch and the helpful locals for carrying the kit down to the scene.

Andrew Ireland
Buchan Coordinator