How many of us in Durness think that we have really huge whales swimming only hundreds of metres off shore from us?
I did not think that I would ever see massive Humpback whales anywhere near Durness but recently did just that and at very close range, three of them.
A Humpback whale feeding in Loch Eriboll recently became entangled in creel ropes and could not free itself, the workers in the fish farm, John and sons Andrew and Michael reported that it was well and truly stuck. I telephoned the British Divers Marine Life Rescue [BDMLR] in Thurso and London for help as they have a professional team of specially trained people who are expert in trying to release large whales from entanglement. They come from all over the UK to save whales.
I was with the team when they went out into loch Eriboll with the fish farm men to attempt to free this one, it was somewhere between 10 – 12 metres long [ measure that in the classroom]. The poor animal had ropes around it head, body and tail, plus two buoys and a creel hanging from its mouth!
The divers had to approach the whale very cautiously and extremely carefully as it was almost four times the size of the wee dinghy they were in and one swipe of its massive tail could have sent them all flying into the cold water. The team are very skilled though and fully protected, wearing dry suits, helmets and life-jackets, using long poles with very sharp blades on the end for cutting ropes. It took much patience and about four hours but eventually the whale was freed and it took off with an enormous splash. The diver who cut the ropes around the whales head says that the Humpback actually lifted its head towards him making it easier for him to cut, in fact from watching it seemed to the rest of us that this huge intelligent mammal actually new we were helping and co-operated.
It was great to see it swimming off FREE. Keep your eyes peeled as there are far more cetaceans [whales and dolphins] out there than most people realise. Here is a picture of the incident actually happening, at one point the dinghy was lifted up out of the water on the whales back!