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


2017-04-22 10:27:51

BDMLR refloats stranded Minke Whale in Fife

Minke whale incident 21/4/17
A minke whale was reported on Largo Bay beach west of Elie in Fife having been found by a local resident walking her dog. Initially she called the police and SSPCA with British Divers Marine Life Rescue being informed around 4pm when our Fife and Stirlingshire team were mobilised. This is the report by BDMLR's Fife and Strilingshire Coordinator, Smudger (Paul) Smith.

First arrivals were greeted with a strange scene of a car stuck on the beach with a whale in a large puddle midway along the beach. A film crew who were filming with SSPCA for animal 999 programme, they took their car on the sand and became bogged down on the beach.

The BDMLR medic team, with assistance from the Coastguard and SSPCA, started first aid on the whale and awaited our rescue trailer from Dundee and further medics. When the second team arrived their first rescue was the stranded car and once that had been freed they continued to the whale. As they had a 4x4 the trailer was towed to the site where equipment was offloaded before the trailer was returned to shore.

The whale was a 21ft female minke, laying on her right flank.  She was in good condition and was strongly thrashing her tail in the water and breathing hard with the stress. After a great effort the team eventually managed to roll her and get her upright on the mat ready for the inflatable pontoons to be deployed. She calmed down once righted and settled on the pontoon system.

The trained volunteers then cared for the whale while they waited for what seemed an eternity for the tide to come back in and lift her. Once she was floating there was no holding her back and she went off swimming with an erratic pattern in the bay with the RNLI lifeboat herding her out in semi darkness.

Around 10pm the whale restranded on a rocky reef east in the bay so the RNLI lifeboat took BDMLR volunteers with the pontoons out to her again. She had taken a slight battering on the rocks and so now had superficial cuts on her body.

As she was quite active and partly in the water, it was a real struggle for the team to get her afloat again as she was trying to swim off the reef but the lack of depth was against her.  Eventually the team were able to get her afloat and moved her to slightly deeper water - she was swimming shallowly by this time. Suddenly she swam off the mat and was again herded away from the rocks by the boat. Due to it being pitch black by now, the team lost sight of her but she had been heading out to sea.

The coastguard did a shore walk in case she had beached again and the lifeboat did a shallow beach patrol. After no further sightings everyone was stood down around midnight.

A beachwalk early on Saturday 22nd April brought no further sightings so it is hoped that she made it back to open water. The team had marked her dorsal fin in case she beached again - this greasepaint will wear off in a few days.

Smudger (Paul) Smith, the BDMLR Coordinator for Fife and Stirlingshire said  "A massive thanks is due to the BDMLR team who against all the odds and with limited numbers made it a success. You all made a great effort and brought some great ideas, skills and resources to the beach. All our training payed off and at the minute we can claim victory".

He continued "To the other agencies, the Coastguard and RNLI in particular who kept us safe and gave us all the resources and support we requested we'd also like to give a huge thanks and to Julia and Jo for fantastic support at HQ and after office hours".

Smudger (Paul) Smith
BDMLR Coordinator Fife and Stirlingshire

Photo credit Callum Adam/BDMLR



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