For thousands of years, human beings have been confronted with a wide range of confounding environmental occurrences. Some we’ve managed to solve or master — but many remain a mystery.
Beached whales represent one such puzzling conundrum. Scientists simply aren’t sure why individual whales occasionally beach themselves.
The reasons can range from illness and injury, to confusing sonar signals, to fishing gear entanglement, to simple old age.
But according to the website livescience.com, nobody’s 100% certain why these skilled navigators sometimes strand themselves in shallow or receding waters.
What does seem certain is that people are willing to help. Such was the case as the New Year dawned in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A pilot whale estimated to weigh between 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms (1.65 to 2.2 tons) was spotted on Cow Bay’s Rainbow Haven Beach, roughly 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) east of downtown Dartmouth.
The whale was alone on the sand, and discovered by a resident around 9 a.m. local time.
“It’s unusual for a pilot whale to be by itself,” noted Andrew Reid, response coordinator for the Marine Animal Response Society (MARS). “They’re extremely social species — so when we get single, stranded animals, it’s always a concern that there’s an underlying health issue,” he explained.
Reid and his team confirmed that the whale’s body mass, breathing, and reflexes all seemed perfectly normal, however. And when they put out a call for help, a perfectly mammoth crowd of concerned volunteers rushed directly to the scene.
Casual pedestrians, police officials, surfers, fishery personnel, emergency responders — each one stopped whatever they were doing, and joined forces for a dramatic New Year’s Day rescue.
All told, the coordinated tally appeared to exceed 100 individuals.
Some poured water over the whale, while others scooped a trench that led down to the water. MARS soon arrived with a large inflatable raft, which was gently eased under the marooned leviathan.
Next, several dozen earnest volunteers physically pulled and hoisted the whale toward its natural habitat. Because the tide was out, eight wetsuit-clad professionals then guided the mammal to a reef situated well away from shore.
Even though the animal became snagged on sandbars once or twice, volunteers eventually eased it back out to sea. “Hopefully,” said Reid, “it can re-find its pod, its family, and move on.”
Volunteer Jen Jackson described the united effort as “a pretty amazing experience.”
After all, as 2018 gets underway, few things are more inspiring than watching people lay aside their differences to help save the life of a fellow creature.
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