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


2010-01-03 14:58:48

Porpoise Stranding, North Essex

Rescued porpoiseI received a call from Dougal Urqhart (the warden at Cudmore Grove Country Park at East Mersea) who was watching a porpoise struggling against the tide only 50 metres offshore. They are relatively common around our area but only seem to come in really close during very high tides.

Guessing it was likely to strand I mobilised the team and dashed to the Island as quickly as poss... only to be thwarted by the tide! The causeway was flooded so we had to wait to get on the island... typical, it only happens about four times a year! After a scout round the beach, Russ found the Porpoise right up near the sea wall in amongst the vegetation... an area which normally doesn't flood but had this time due to the high spring tides. The porpoise showed no sign of injury, looked very well fed and was alert and reasonably active. The only concern was what appeared to be mucus around the blowhole although this disappeared once we started wetting the animal and never came back. Breathing rate was normal and regular and there was no wheezing or coughing at all. We got her onto an inflated air mattress as quickly as possible as she was well hidden in the undergrowth and then got her onto the pontoon mat so we could transport her to the beach.

Once in the pontoons we got her into the water as quickly as possible and gave her time to readjust. For a long time it wasn't looking good as she was showing no signs of wanting to go or even having the energy to move. We were just in the process of trying to locate a vet willing to come out on a freezing cold Sunday evening without much luck.

However, we persevered and after talking to James Barnett decided to give it one more go and got her into fairly deep water (we were constantly fighting the rapidly falling tide and soft mud). Mark and Andy cradled her in their arms and I removed the pontoons and after about 10 minutes she suddenly started moving and thrashing about and was last seen heading off fast towards the deep water channel followed by the sound of cheering! It was pitch dark by this point and we lost sight of her, but checked along the beach with powerful torches from the Coastguard.

No sign!

Dougal also promised to check the beach this morning and I have heard nothing from him so hopefully this little lady is back where she belongs and thinking twice about another fishing trip to Mersea Island!

Many thanks to all the medics who helped (Mark Gregory, Simon Duke, Russ Neave, Mike Bailey, Andy Boulden, Jo Cahill). You guys did brilliantly in what was below freezing conditions and soft mud – what a team! Many thanks also to Dougal Urqhart who called the porpoise in and then supplied us with hot coffee at the end of the rescue (much needed) and the local coastguards for their knowledge of the coastline and use of torches and to Graham for letting us park down his track so we didn't have a long walk along the beach.

I'm now off to defrost the air mattress and my dry suit!

Emma Webb
North Essex/South Suffolk Co-Ordinator