Trapped Humpback Whale Rescued by Divers
By David Emery
Netlore Archive: Forwarded email recounts the true story of the rescue of a female humpback whale trapped in a web of crab lines in the Pacific Ocean near the Farallon Islands.
Description: Forwarded email / Viral text
Circulating since: May 2006
Status: True (see details below)
Email contributed by Lisa S., May 15, 2006:
If you read the front page story of the SF Chronicle, you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines.
She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.
A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help.
Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her...
A very dangerous proposition.
One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.
They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her.
When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles.
She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed gently around-she thanked them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.
The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.
May you, and all those you love,
And, may you always know the joy
I pass this on to you, my friend, in the same spirit.
Analysis: True story, though the inter-species pathos may have been exaggerated a bit in the telling.
According to local news coverage, it all began on Sunday, December 11, 2005, when a fisherman spotted a 50-ton humpback whale tangled up in crab trap lines off the Marin County coast in northern California. His call for help was answered by the Marin Marine Mammal Center, which dispatched a group of Coast Guard divers and whale experts to the site near the Farallon Islands to free the animal.
The rescue operation was both difficult and dangerous. Crew members found the whale entwined in some 20 ropes, each 240 feet long and wrapped so tight they were slicing into its flesh. The lines had to be cut by hand, which required diving perilously close to the whale and its powerful tail. It took about an hour, and no one was injured.
In interviews with reporters, some of the divers remarked on the whale's "affectionate" behavior. One said the creature watched and seemed to wink at him as he was cutting a line that went through its mouth. Once freed, the whale began circling and approached the divers one by one to "nuzzle" them. "You hate to anthropomorphize too much," Mick Menigoz told the San Francisco Chronicle, "but the whale was doing little dives and the guys were rubbing shoulders with it. I don't know for sure what it was thinking, but it's something that I will always remember. It was just too cool."
According to Jennifer Kennedy, About.com's Guide to Marine Life, as many as 30 whale entanglement incidents happen per year, and rescue efforts can be quite dangerous for the humans involved. See her article, Whales and Entanglements: The Dangerous Job of Disentangling Whales.
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Sources and further reading:
Daring Rescue of Whale off Farallons
SF Chronicle, 14 December 2005
Whale of a Rescue off Marin Coast
KTVU-TV News, 14 December 2005
Scuba Divers Rescue 50-Ton Humpback Whale Near Farallon Islands
Associated Press, 13 December 2005
Whales and Entanglements
About.com: Marine Life
Last updated: 08/08/11