WCA Partner Lloyd Edwards of Raggy Charters tells of an extraordinary encounter off Port Elizabeth which resulted in a female humpback whale being disentangled from fishing gear with her newborn calf nearby.
‘It all started as I was standing on my deck observing numerous humpback whales breaching at Seaview. At 10am I saw a humpback whale cruising past with a red buoy trailing about 200 metres behind it. I immediately called the National Sea Rescue Commander Ian Gray, who got his team into action. Next was a call to Raggy Charters manager Jake Keeton to get “My China” fuelled and ready. I alerted all the local whale spotters who could keep eyes on the whale.
We left port just after the NSRI, having been joined by Raggy Charters skipper Warren and guide Abongile. Also aboard was Ken “Elvis” Hacohen who served for 3 years in the Israeli Navy. We eventually met up with the two NSRI vessels and the entangled whale, just past Van Staadens River. We watched as the small rubber boat manoeuvred skilfully around the whale, cutting through the nylon cables.
We also noticed that the whale was not alone and had a newborn calf in tow. The calf’s dorsal fin was still bent over, which means that it had been born very recently. It must have been a terribly stressful time for the two whales. Eventually the last rope was cut and the whale was free!
Once freed, the pair shot off in a southerly direction at speed. We wondered how the calf would keep up, but it stayed firmly beside its mother. After about three miles they started to slow down. The next minute the female started breaching, almost as if to say thank you! Two great breaches and then we left them alone to find peace with themselves. We must have seen over 100 humpback whales on the round trip. A new record for us! Remember that these animals have bounced back to around 98% of their pre-exploitation population.’
Congratulations to all involved with this rescue, and well done to Lloyd for his quick actions that undoubtedly saved this female and her young calf.