Three British animal lovers will return to Glasgow tomorrow (Friday August 21) after flying to Iceland to carry out a daring and “dangerous” rescue of a mighty entangled whale.
In what turned out to be a major international operation, the fearless trio came within inches of being hit by huge thrashing tail.
Ali Jack from near Thurso in Caithness and Mark Stevens and Geoff Hammock from Kent flew to the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik at the weekend to free the huge humpback whale.
All are directors of British Divers Marine Life Rescue – and the operation, and replacement kit lost in the rescue, cost in the region of £10,000, for which an appeal has now been launched.
The team, in conjunction with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, freed the humpback from fishing gear within two days of arrival.
Humpbacks can grow up to 52 feet long and weigh 79,000 lbs. They also have the largest forelimbs in the animal kingdom – leading to their scientific name Megaptera, meaning “giant winged”. They have 19 feet long flippers which make them prone to snagging ropes. Given that they cannot swim backwards, a simple entanglement can be fatal or lead to prolonged suffering.
There have been at least two fatal entanglements in Scotland in the past 12 months.
The Icelandic entangled whale was first spotted in Faxafloi Bay, near Reykjavik on July 30 and attempts by local organisations to free it were unsuccessful.
Directors from BDMLR had initially received whale disentanglement training from the Centre for Coastal Studies (CCS) at Provincetown in the US, prior to setting up a Large Whale Disentanglement Team in the UK, so they were included in discussions and advice sought from them.
CSS asked if BDMLR could assist by initially sending some equipment to Iceland, but bearing in mind the dangers associated with untrained prople trying such rescues, BDMLR offered to send a small team to conduct the operation.
Mr Jack, Mr Stevens and Mr Hammock, flew to Reykjavik on Friday (14 August) and were joined there by Brian Sharp from IFAW in the US.