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


2013-08-23 09:28:13

Report and footage of Dee Dolphin relocation

Steve O'Connor, experienced volunteer BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic, was with the RNLI to advise on the dolphin's care during it's repatriation to the open sea.  This is his report of the day (That's Steve in the glasses!)

Thursday 22nd August 2013

1)  After receiving a text from the BDMLR Operations Manager that the Dolphin had once again been sighted at Saltney I headed down there and arrived at around 11.35hrs.  The Saltney Bridge and banks of the river were already crowded with members of the public and as I arrived the Tidal Bore was passing under the Bridge and with the present high Spring tide was a least an impressive 2 foot high wave travelling very fast.

I feared that this bore was going to encourage the dolphin further down the river towards Chester at this point as we had thought had been the case earlier in the week.

2)   11.45hrs. I saw the RNLI landrover approaching the scene at speed under blues and twos....  I walked over to meet them as they arrived and was informed that the Flint Lifeboat crew had spotted the Dolphin on the shoreline close to the Airbus factory at Broughton and using their ambulance pack stretcher had brought her aboard their D class - see RNLI video here. (you'll see that the dolphin was still in the water making it easier for just two RNLI to put the stretcher under it and drag towards the boat while still in suspension). They were now heading to my location to pick me up and take me with the dolphin to deeper waters if I deemed she was fit for release.

3)  11.50hrs.  The Lifeboat arrived at Saltney bridge and I climbed aboard from the bank.   I confirmed she was a female common dolphin Just under 2m in length she was is good body condition and was taking around 3-4 breaths per minute.   The crew informed me that their proposed release site was around 6 miles offshore at the Rhyl Flats in around 18 metres of water.  The journey from Saltney to the release site would take around 2 to 2.5 hours.  With this in mind I advised an immediate departure as the welfare of the dolphin was now time critical.

4) 11.55hrs. We departed Saltney and initially made slow progress as the we were fighting against the tide.  Rather than having her upright as we normally would have, we had to lay her on her side for stability in the bottom of the boat and to stop her sliding towards the back.  I continued to monitor the dolphin who remained stable taking good breaths and we kept her damp and cool throughout the journey as there was little breeze and the temp at midday was now 24 degrees. (One of the photographs shows water being poured on her without her blowhole being protected. Most of the time it was but if we weren't able to get into position due to the cramped natue of the lifeboat, water was only poured on her head just after a blow.)

5) Word had now clearly spread on social media that the dolphin was aboard as every bridge we went under as we headed back towards sea was now lined with the cheering MOP's I think Davina must now be the most photographed dolphin in the world.

6) It was decided that we needed to take on fuel for the journey so the crew radioed ahead to Flint lifeboat station to standby with fuel.

7) We arrived at Flint lifeboat station at around 12.50hrs.  I exited the boat to allow them to refuel,  The crew shielded the dolphin's head and blowhole whilst they refuelled both tanks.   Several members of the press were present at the scene including BBC wales and local news papers and I gave them an update of the rescue whilst the crew finished fuelling.

8)  Once fuelled we headed back up the River to open water.  At 13.20hrs as we met with the Rhyl Mersey Class lifeboat at Mostyn docks at this point I became concerned for the dolphins welfare.  It seemed to have become very docile and breathing had slowed considerably......   I checked the eye reflex to ensure she was still with us which she was and within 5 minutes as we reached the mouth of the river her breathing had returned to normal and she was moving in the boat and now calling out making high pitched communication noises and clicking.

9)  Once in open water we travelled in the wake of the Mersey class life boat in order to make for a smoother journey.  The dolphin's breathing was now back to normal and she seemed as settled as she could be in the circumstances.

10)  As we aproached the release site she became very active and we pulled up along side the Rhyl lifeboat and tied off.

11) I advised that the best way to release would be if we could have people in the water with her holding her upright and rocking her until she was ready to go keeping her blowhole clear of the water, as per BDMLR protocol.

12) Two of the crew from the Flint lifeboat entered the water and then with the help of Rhyl lifeboat crew we lifted her into the sea on the stretcher.

13) The guys in the water did a great job and within 30 seconds it was clear she was ready to go and she swam off.... see RNLI videos here and here. We observed her swim forward of our position breaching the waves as she swam and then circle the boat and head North giving us one final Goodbye leap from the sea as she went.

14 )  Once she was out of site both lifeboats headed back to  Rhyl for recovery with me now aboard the Mersey class.

Steve O'Connor
BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic


Once again, all at BDMLR would like to that everyone involved both in this final relocation and the last few days. It really is much appreciated.


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