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


2005-07-31 14:16:09

Teignmouth, Devon, callout to large dolphin/whale/big fish

I received a call from Mark Stevens who was doing the after hours phone-sitting at 10.40pm on Sunday, saying that the coastguard had a sighting of a stranded 'whale' at Teignmouth on the beach. Apparently there had been a little confusion as someone had also reported it as being a big fish.

At this point panic set in as Tony (Woodley) was away, I found out James Barnett was in France for 2 weeks, the only call-outs I'd done were pup watch and a happily feeding harbour porpoise at Brixham, I'd not properly looked at the list of names for a while and this was the first call-out I was supposed to manage! Yikes!! It was my very good fortune that I hit upon the following people who were stars in what they did, and the fact they hadn’t gone to bed or were too inebriated to help out.

Dave Saunders in Brixham was the first and nearest medic to get on-site, he also used his coast guard contacts to get more detail on what and where we were supposed to be looking. It was his report back to me from Teignmouth saying that the animal couldn’t be found that stopped me from contacting more people. If you weren't contacted, I’m sorry but I decided there was no point in disturbing any more for a probable no-show. Thanks Dave for your prompt help.

I also contacted the West Devon co-ordinator, Lissa Goodwin, for moral support and to get a grip on whether I was doing the right things only to find that she was Paignton helping a friend move. So after a brief rummage around the house for wellies, torch and chocolate, she and friend Emma joined the beach patrol. As coincidence would have it, Lissa knew Teignmouth very well having spent 2 months solid doing research on her undergraduate dissertation on the Teignmouth dolphins and was a wealth of useful information.

Marion Hall from Jurassic Coast Diving was also good enough to answer the phone and she was fantastic in picking-up the trailer from Exmouth fire station and organising 2 air cylinders for the pontoons. Luckily I'd got the call from Dave saying the 'whale' had probably refloated itself on the rising tide by then, so she and Martin didn't have to drive down with it but stayed on stand-by with the trailer hitched and ready if it was needed.

Before I'd found out James Barnett was having a well-earned break, I'd called his mobile and he returned it at what must have been about 12.30am for him! He was very helpful with suggesting other vets to contact if we needed them and even called back to check how things were going and again in the morning to see how things turned out. Mark Stevens did the same, which I thought was nice considering he was off on holiday today too.

Needless to say, after the beaches in Teignmouth and Shaldon had been extensively walked, we all called it a night around 1am and hoped not to find it beached the next day further down the coast. Lissa went home via the coast road and checked out Torquay beaches for 'big fish' and I did various stops up the river to search where I could.

I would also like to thank Teignmouth coastguard for all the effort they put in. They had down searches with large flashlights and parachute flares in trying to locate the stranded animal and apparently were going to do a search along that bit of coast in the morning, just in case.

All in all it was a very successful drill. I learnt a lot in how badly prepared I was and how well volunteers respond. Thank you to all for your dedication, help and support.

Sue Davie
East Devon Coordinator

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