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


2005-12-28 16:19:14

Buses arrive in the Duchy!

West Cornwall Area Co-ordinator Dave Jarvis commented to Medic Dan Jarvis about how remarkably quiet it had been over the Xmas period as they approached the outskirts of Hayle. The noon news came on the car radio. Half a mile & 30 seconds later the telephone rang. Dan took the call from Medic Sue Sayer, who was at Godrevy. She advised that she was observing a young seal near the strandline, which had monofilament net around its waist...

Dave and Dan returned home to collect Medic Lesley Jarvis, rescue equipment and advise the National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek of the incident. They then rapidly made their way to the scene, where they met Sue and began assessing the situation. It was immediately confirmed that the seal did have net around it and that it was detached from the main haulout group and located below the cliffs at the western end of the cove. The tide was rising, but the conditions were such that it would not compromise any rescue operation, so the decision was made to make an immediate attempt before the animal went back into the sea.

Dan re-contacted Gweek to up date them, whilst Dave began to telephone other Medics in the area when he was approached by one of the on-lookers. “I’m Colin Pringle, I did the Newquay Course last year”. Dave ascertained that he was experienced in dealing with the terrain involved and then advised that we were waiting for one more medic to arrive so that a team of three could be committed. Colin said his cousin Cliff Newcomb could assist, as he was an experienced climber. Within a few minutes the team of Colin and Cliff, with Dan in charge, were making their way down the scree path whilst Sue observed the reactions of the seal from the opposite side of the cove, constantly advising Dave in his ‘control point’ immediately above the medics whilst Lesley undertook crowd control and directing them to the safest vantage points. The team quietly made their way down and were in the beach access position before the main haulout group became aware of them, at which point luck also intervened when a small seal came out of the water and chased the intended patient up the beach towards the rescuers. After allowing it to settle down again, Cliff took up position as an anchorman with the safety rope and Dan briefed Colin on the procedure to be used.

Once on the beach, Dan initially hid behind the rocks before emerging to jump the animal, but the seal, seeing him coming, made off across the beach only to encounter Colin executing his instructions to perfection, when he showed it the sole of his shoe, making it hesitate just long enough for Dan to gain the advantage with his towel. The team on the beach removed the net entangling the seal, which had just begun to penetrate the skin, but further inspection showed that it also had an eye injury that would require treatment. Lesley contacted Gweek to advise that the pup would be coming in, at which point she was advised that Animal Care Assistant Claire Baker was on her way to Porthgwarra to attend to another seal.

Dan and Colin placed the animal into a seal bag and began the ascent of the rocks, with Cliff assisting from his vantage point. Medic Phil Jarvis and National Trust Warden Sara Dowler both arrived just as the withdrawal began, so Phil was immediately positioned halfway down to assist as required. Upon reaching the clifftop the animal was immediately transferred into a cage and transported to Gweek, with Dan calling them ahead to advise on its condition.

Upon arrival Dave, Les and Dan reported to Animal Care Assistant Abi Nichols, who was in the midst of moving pups to other pens to accommodate the new arrivals with the help of Medic Rose Barker, who is currently doing a stint of volunteering work at the Sanctuary to assist with her Advanced Marine Mammal Medic course. Within the hour Claire was back with the second pup in the back of the Sanctuary Landrover. The animal had been taken off the slipway when it was found to be lethargic and unresponsive to human contact. Further arrangements were made for the movement of seals, with the help of Chris Ellis from the Sanctuary’s Maintenance Team, at which point the telephone rang...

Claire emerged from the office and told Abi and Rose to put ‘Speckle’ (the pup from Godrevy) in Isolation Pen 1, whilst she and Chris moved ‘Humbug’ (the seal from Porthgwarra) into the temporary pen, before turning to Dave, Les and Dan to say “and you’re going to Mousehole”. A fresh cage was found, but it was beginning to get dark as they left Gweek, which presented two problems. The first was that although the weather was calm, the beach was mainly boulders & rocks, so it would not be easy to locate a pup in the dark. The second problem was that Mousehole is a major tourist attraction at this time of year because of the illuminations around the harbour and town, so it was important to beat the crowds, as there is only one main road into the village. Dan rang ahead to make contact with the original caller, Seth Marshall, and arranged to meet him on arrival.

Just managing to beat the traffic jam, Dave parked in a convenient bus stop whilst Les and Dan located the caller, who was accompanied by two boys, Ollie & Olaf. The group made their way down onto the beach with the cage. Dave asked Seth to guide them in the general direction so that a search could begin, but a shout of “here it is” was soon heard. Flashlights showed the boys standing in the middle of the beach, amid boulders, but next to a small, malnourished and dehydrated seal pup. It then emerged that Ollie & Olaf had been watching over the seal for most of the day, consequently knowing its exact position. The pup was jumped by Dan and after a brief struggle, was deposited into the cage. Gweek were then contacted and advised that we would be coming in with the animal and would reassess the whole situation when we arrived back there. The boys were given the opportunity to name the pup & they chose the name ‘Spingo’.

Senior Animal Care Assistant Tamara Cooper, upon becoming aware of the developing situation at the Sanctuary, immediately attended the Sanctuary to oversee the management of the new seals. When the seal arrived from Mousehole it was immediately apparent that there was no room for it within the Isolation unit that is necessary for new patient care, so following a couple of telephone calls, a temporary home was found for the night at Duchy Vets in Newquay. A full clinical assessment was made of the animal and medication applied as necessary together with fluids being delivered via tubing by Tamara and Claire. The pup was then allowed to rest for a short while before Dave, Les and Dan set off for the final leg of the day’s travels. The Veterinary Nurses in Newquay were waiting for ‘Spingo’ and the clinical information and medication were passed to Michelle. The animal was subsequently overseen and tube fed by Medic Jenny Haley, who works there.

As they approached the outskirts of Hayle, Dan reminded Dave of the comment some nine and a half hours earlier. Dave’s reply is not for public consumption.

We would like to thank all the Medics who were involved in the various incidents, together with Cliff Newcomb, Sara Dowler, Seth & Ollie Marshall, Olaf Marshall-Whitley, Duchy Veterinary Surgeons, and not least the Animal Care Team at National Seal Sanctuary for the efficient manner in which the animals were ‘cascaded’ and treated at such a busy time of year.

Medic Dan Jarvis
BDMLR West Cornwall
(Newquay – Land’s End – St Austell)