Today I have been saving the whale. Literally.
Well, not just me. At one point it felt like half our small village was on the beach. Usually this would mean one of two things; either there’s an unexpected heatwave (for heatwave read anything above 16 deg C) or someone has just turned 18 and the party has been turfed out of the village hall at closing time.
The beach normally looks roughly like this:
As we live on the seafront it was obvious when we left the house this morning that “something” was happening. To be honest we were running close to being late so I glanced over and assumed it was an inshore rescue practice or something similar. After dropping the children at school it became apparent there were “whales” on the beach. I raced home, grabbed my wellington boots and ran down to see if I could help.
There were three pilot whales that had somehow got stranded. Sadly one was dead, but the other two were very much alive, although in danger from being on their sides. The tide had just started to turn and was coming back in which was good news. The coastguards were there, lots of locals and at that time at least one member of the SSPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Some people were trying to move the sand so that the whales could be heaved upright but with every wave more would come. I asked where I was needed and waded in. Have you ever tried to get a grip on a whale? No? Me neither until today but I guess it stands to reason that they are extremely slippery. Combined with weighing, actually I couldn’t even begin to guess, but tons, it makes for an interesting combination when you know in order to save this poor creature you need to turn it. The utter relief when we righted the first one was amazing. I would have been happy to stay in the water and help to keep the poor thing straight until I realised my camera was in danger of getting ruined!
So I legged it to safety (just in time) and stood dripping on the beach to watch for a while. This is the pilot whale I helped to save.
It took a while to get the second one up too, and then it was a case of keeping them damp (whilst avoiding the blow-hole – very important) and waiting for the tide to re-float them. Sadly I couldn’t wait for long as my wee daughter M had an important medical appointment so I needed to have a shower and get ready to collect her.
I had enough time to fill 2 large Thermos flasks with tea and coffee and race back down the beach so I was delighted to learn that one of the whales had been persuaded out to sea (gutted not to have captured it on film though). There were some of the village ladies already dispensing drinks but mine didn’t go to waste. I reluctantly left to collect M and the scene looked like this. As you can see the weather had turned on us.
How I managed to concentrate at the appointment I shall never know, but it all went very well and after feeding M at the wee cafe near the hospital ( I had promised her and with a person on the autism spectrum it really is a bad idea to break a promise unless essential) we drove back.
Almost the first person I saw was one of our coastguards, near a trailer which had just been loaded with the dead whale. Luckily as I slowed down he was smiling, and he confirmed that they had finally managed to get the second whale back out into open water. I had a massive smile on my face then.
In between all this happening the primary school had suspended lessons and brought the children down for a soggy and quiet nature lesson, lots more SSPCA staff and some Marine Rescue people had arrived, and there was definitely one person with a long lens camera that may have been a journalist. It was certainly a village event.
There were a number of people who must have been extremely cold by the time the second whale was re-floated and everyone who was involved should be very proud of themselves as it was a real team effort and we managed to save the lives of two utterly magical animals – I have been fortunate to see dolphins at very close range but the privilege of actually handling one of these magnificent creatures will stay with me for a long time.