Featured Image Credit: Trevor Kennedy
By Kira Krall
Nova Scotians united on New Year’s Day, 2018 to rescue a beached pilot whale despite an air temperature of 14 degrees.
A beachcomber on Rainbow Haven Beach noticed the lone pilot whale struggling in the sand on January 1st. The news of the plighted cetacean spread quickly on Facebook, and marine mammal stranding responders were joined by dozens of civilians that showed up to help.
Andrew Halifax of the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS) was one of the leaders at the rescue. He instructed civilians to dig a ramp in the sand and to cover the whale with towels to help it stay warm. Other responders brought an inflatable pontoon to help ease the 4,000-pound animal back into the Atlantic. The helpers were told to stay clear of its powerful tail as it was rolled onto the whale-sized life raft.
Marine mammal officials usually have to rely on a motorized boat to help tow animals off the sand. But with so many hands available, they didn’t want to take the risk and wait for a responder’s boat to show up. Foot by foot, the pilot whale was pulled away from the shore. Wetsuit-clad civilian surfers helped navigate the pontoon past the shallows and out to deeper water where the whale swam free.
At least 100 people showed up to help return the pilot whale back to the ocean. They were in a fight against time as gravity threatened to crush the animal’s organs. Hypothermia and frostbite were also imminent in the freezing air. While a lone pilot whale often means an underlying illness, its best chance of survival is in the salty sea.