World News – USA – Resident of freely entangled humpback whale near community in southeast Alaska


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It was in the middle of the night on the day before Thanksgiving when the residents of Tenakee town on the island of Chichagof were awakened by a nerve-wracking noise on Springs.

Neither of them actually heard the noise until later in the day the noise got closer to their homes. But they were among the first to respond to its source – a 40-foot humpback whale caught in tanner crab potting gear, which Gordon Chew said came from Kodiak about 630 miles away.

« People were very upset after losing a lot of sleep and listening to a roaring humpback whale all night, » said Chew. He woke up to calls from those desperate residents.

Large whale entanglements are quite rare in Alaska. Only about 10 are sighted each year, and most whales dump the sea debris or fishing gear themselves. However, once or twice a year it takes human intervention to save the life of a whale.

As Chew, Lewis and Stern would soon learn, this was one of those times. All three are part of a network of volunteers trained by NOAA to respond to whale entanglements.

Once cleared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Chew and Lewis set out to collect footage as Stern followed in a support boat. An orange buoy marked the place where the animal was now frozen. Chew slowly lowered a waterproof video camera by a long pole into the water.

“It had an anchor on the tail, lines forward, a buoy in its mouth, another buoy on the tail. And it really couldn’t move, ”said Stern. “It was terrible to see an animal tied up like that. ”

« We could hear it breathing and it was troublesome the way it was pinched and folded in half, » Chew said.

Then they passed the photos and footage on to the likes of Sadie Wright, a NOAA large whale entanglement specialist.

« It was amazing that people were willing to give up their vacation preparations to get this animal free, » Wright said. « We were able to work with these people in Tenakee to evaluate the photos and video and come up with a safe and conscious plan to remotely perform these unbundling tactics to keep people safe, » Wright said.

That’s because untangling a whale is dangerous. Both Chew and Lewis have received extensive training, access to specialized tools, and have helped with several tangles over the years. And they have consulted with NOAA every step of the way.

“You know that a 40-ton animal can do a lot of damage. A pectoral fin can weigh 900 pounds, just the fin on the animal’s side. I mean if it falls on you or your boat it would be very, very bad, ”Chew said.

By the time they were ready to prune the whale, it was Thanksgiving morning. Two other boats joined them. A long, careful dance began. What Stern described as an excruciatingly slow process.

« Everyone thinks of some kind of YouTube video that you go out there and there are these heroes and maybe they are in wet suits and they go down and they cut the gear and the whale jumps in the air and there is one Rainbow, « said Stern. « It’s just not like that. ”

First they cut the whale out of the heavy crab pot that weighs it down. Then they followed the whale as it began to swim, hoping that it would take off the remaining gear. Chew made several unsuccessful attempts to cut it away.

« I wish I could have done more. And I just tried and tried and tried, ”he said. « And it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, and I just focused on being successful. ”

Finally, as the daylight subsided and the whale approached the rougher waters of Chatham Strait, they cut a buoy from the base of its tail. It took a dive and disappeared in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

« Helping a large animal like this is a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving, » said Lewis. “We were really happy to spend our day doing something really good for the world, or at least for this whale. ”

But like most real-life stories, this one doesn’t have a definite happy ending. The whale was still following a few lines and had a buoy in its mouth. NOAA experts said the powerful beast is very likely to shake the remaining equipment. But if someone doesn’t rediscover the 16-year-old humpback whale, now identified as a well-known whale from Southeast Alaska, they won’t know for sure.

« It would be nice to know the end of the story. It’s part of the part for me that is pretty difficult, ”said Stern. “I wish I knew what ultimately happened to this whale. ”

But maybe, just maybe, one of Tenakee’s many pilgrim sailors will soon deliver that happy ending.

This year was the second warmest in the Arctic, affecting sea ice, erosion and marine ecosystems.

According to the sales statement posted online on Monday, the minimum bid is $ 25 per morning. Companies can submit their sealed offers to the Bureau of Land Management between December and December. 21 and dec. . 31. These commandments are unsealed at 10 a.m.. m. Auction on Jan. . 6, which airs online.

For opponents of the project, the decision of the army corps sparked a wave of relief. For those who supported the project, the decision is a heavy blow.

Whales, Tenakee Springs, Alaska, Humpback Whale

World News – USA – Resident free entangled humpback whale near community in southeast Alaska
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