Lilly, The Dana Point Whale Rescue Continues
Dave, team memberof
the Orange County Whale Disentanglement Team and Eric Otjen
of SeaWorld, work together to cut the lines wrapped
around the whale's
mouth, pectoral fins and flukes. Sign up on Twitter for Updates
and my diary notes on the Rescue.
Sad to say, Lily
died around 3 PM today. After hours and hours of listlessly swiming
near the surf line at Doheny Beach, Lily came to rest in the surf.
Barry Curtis, a trained member of the Team, as well as a dear
friend had been out on the water watching her for hours and days
and had already went to the beach where he believed she would finally
beach herself. He was there when Lily breathed her last breath,
looking into her beautiful big eye. He said he felt she was at
peace; and Barry, believing, like us, that there is a wonderful
place called heaven where we will go, prayed that this whale would
be there, too. We do, too, Amen.
Lily is back, spotted around 8 AM by Mike Bursk, of the Ocean Institute. Mike
called Dave and we have notified NMFS, Sea World and the team. At this point,
there is little the team can do, but each of these men feels a strong connection
to Lily and they want to be there to do whatever they can. Dave is with other
team members as they track Lily.
Joe Cordaro of the National Marine Fisheries Service says it appears Lily is
fatigued and malnourished. He says crews will not become involved unless she
We'll keep you posted. For Twitter updates, go
here. I'll post an update tonight
when I get back for the harbor.
12:11 PM Dave is with
Lily and can see that there is more line on her flukes. NMFS would
be the decision maker in any efforts to help the whale.
7:45 PM Dave has been with Lily all day and doesn't feel that
whatever line is still attached is hampering her progress. At this
point there are many possibilities...some of them are she is resting,
she is foraging for food or she is dying. Joe Cordaro of NMFS also
suggested that she may 'know' there are transient Orca in the area
and want to stay in a safe place. As Joe said, "It's hard to get
into the head of that whale."
Sadly, another gray whale off Washington's coast has been in a
similar situation, this one heavily encumbered by lines. Disentanglement
efforts by Cascadia Research have been going on for two days, and
will resume tomorrow.
According to Dave's research, 1000 dolphins and whales are caught
and die in nets around the world, every day.
Day Three. Team member Dean Gomersall spots the
whale at 6 AM and calls Dave. Sea World is notified and National
authorizes the team, led by Eric Otjen of Sea World to attempt
the disentanglement. The rescue on May 12th will be the first Disentanglement
effort for the team who was trained over a year ago by Ed Lyman,
under the guidance of NMFS who has
participated in over 80 such
More than ironic
is that as the Disentanglement Team suits up on the dock of the
where they were all trained over a year ago, the whale languishes,
bound in nets only 100 feet away. Am I the only one who thinks
that it's more than amazing that a tangled up whale would show
of the team's training center?
So many people took part in the effort and played valuable roles.
Whether they were on the primary rescue boat, or the second boat,
ready to trade off with tired team members, passing over equipment
as it was needed or helping to keep lines clear, or even on land,
waiting for instructions, each person executed their roles flawlessly.
The very first and most important step is to approach the whale
and attach a large orange buoy. This enables the team to track
whale if it decides to leave before the procedure is complete.
After that, the team works to locate and pull away the lines, so
that the cutting equipment can be used without hurting the whale.
Under no circumstances can the team get in the water. A
20- or 30-ton injured whale, along with handheld
knives is not a good recipe for the safety of the whale or the
men. Even in the boat, the men's lives were at risk when they
were lifting the whale's flukes to cut lines. One tail swipe can
break the neck of a man.
Slowly, line was cut away from the whale's mouth and pectoral fins.
The toughest part was removing the wrapped lines from the whale's
tail, which was several feet below water. To reach it, the team
had to pull the tail up to the surface. Thankfully, the whale was
cooperative. As each rope was
cut away, the whale, now nicknamed 'Lily' by Team member Barry
Curtis, seemed to perk up. Even so, the whale was extremely emaciated
Finally free of the lines,
Lily headed for the open sea at a steady 1/2 knot. The average
whale swims at about three to four knots, so Capt. Dave is saying
that this whale is operating at about 10 to 20% of what is normal.
challenge for this whale is that it hasn't eaten in at least eight
months. We understand
that gray whales do not feed on their migration and Lily probably
left Alaska in October. After going without food for that long,
coupled with the exertion and stress of the lines, she is weak.
Lily needs nourishment.
People are thrilled the whale is still here, but we wonder why
the whale is still here. Dave watches the whale for hours and is
concerned about the whales rapid breathing patterns. A woman on
the rocks insists that she could see a rope under the whale, but
one can see it now. As darkness approaches, the whale enters the
harbor again. After studying numerous photos and shots from the
news helicopters, we all agree there is at least one line under
the whale's body. It's too late in the day to begin a disentanglement
effort, which averages 6 to 8 hours. The OC Whale Disentanglement
Team members are called and are ready to go the next morning if
the whale is still in the harbor.
I Day One: The whale arrived in our channel around
noon. We see a gray whale in our harbor at least once a year, so
no one thought there was a problem. Just another visit from a gray
whale heading north. Everyone
is always excited and we enjoy the visit.