A killer whale was rescued Wednesday afternoon off B.C.’s North Coast after being beached on rocks, unable to move at low tide, at Hartley Bay. A whale research and protection group called Whale Point, and other volunteers including members of the local chapter of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) assembled on scene to try and help the whale.
They describe a dramatic rescue.
“Today was one of very high emotions,” the group Whale Point wrote on Facebook. “It started with a call from Eric on the Bangarang that he just spotted a beached orca. The Guardians from Hartley Bay were soon on their way, as were we at Whale Point, with WWF also on board.
“Eric put together a McGaver type water pump, we grabbed as many sheets as we could, and Hermann, Bunker and Nicole, Eric and myself went to shore and approached the whale as quietly as possible. It was a team effort, and fortunately on some level this transient orca understood that we were trying to help.”
Orca whale cries out
The group said the whale, a female, was calling out, heart-wrenching cries to hear. They felt the best thing they could do was to keep her cool and wet, an assessment confirmed when they spoke by phone with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). As the afternoon set in, the sun was creating an uncomfortable whale and her breathing became labored.
Along with the water pump, they gathered sheets and soaked them and were able to use them to keep the whale wet until the tide came up. At first the whale was stressed by their presence, but Whale Point said they sensed she knew they were there to help and she appeared to grow calmer. By 4 p.m. the tide was high enough she began to maneuver so they backed off and allowed her to tackle the problem from there on her own.
“She cried often, which tore at our hearts,” Whale Point wrote. “But as the tide came up there were many cheers as this whale was finally free after 6+ hours of being stuck on this rock…a giant thank you once again to this amazing community that comes together so quickly to protect what is sacred.”
Hartley Bay rescuers
Hartley Bay is a remote First Nations community on BC’s northern coast about 145 km. (90 mi.) south of Prince Rupert; it has a population of 200 and is accessible only by sea or air. In March of 2006 the B.C. Ferry Queen of the North sank near Hartley Bay and the community came to the rescue, helping to boat passengers to shore and putting them up at their cultural center.
In late June near Powell River on the B.C. coast, a Humpback whale became tangled in fishing boats and could not move. It was rescued by DFO officials. At the time, DFO said the Humpback was “hog-tied” in the lines of as many as 50 prawn traps. It took hours to cut the whale free.
The volunteer group that rescued the orca on Wednesday said if they hadn’t been there it is possible the whale may have died. “Had Eric not seen her,” Janie Hermann of Whale Point told the Vancouver Sun. “We can’t say that she would have survived that many hours on the beach. Even a couple of minutes and her skin would go very dry.”