On New Year’s Day, a pilot whale was found stranded on a beach just east of Halifax. The animal, who was assessed as a mature male, did not appear to be suffering from any trauma. However, it was in danger of frostbite if someone didn’t do something quickly.
Luckily, news of the stranded animal spread like wildfire on social media, and soon dozens of locals, firefighters, wildlife officers, police, and surfers had gathered at the beach to see what could be done.
“There was this massive movement of people who converged on the beach during winter. That was the awesome part,” photographer Trevor Kennedy, who was present, told the Globe and Mail.
Initially people were searching for some sort of vehicle or boat to help drag the whale back out into the water. However, enough people showed up that no such machinery was needed. Instead, the animal was ushered back to sea by teamwork.
First, a trench was dug in the sand for the whale to be pulled down. Then, an inflatable “refloatation pontoon” was placed under the animal. A few dozen volunteers managed to successfully drag the animal into the water on the device.
Finally, a group of surfers dressed in wet suits guided the animal through the shallows and out into the open water.
Andrew Reid, the response coordinator for the Halifax-based Marine Animal Response Society, was present at the scene. He was thrilled by how quickly the animal got back into the water—and how many people came down to help.
“We were discussing our options—were we waiting for the tide? Or trying to get an excavator down there? But within probably half an hour or 40 minutes, we had 100 people there,” he told the Globe.
“We could have made [the whale] comfortable and waited for the tide, but we had the people power, and didn’t have to.”
2017 was a rough year for whales, with many becoming stranded on Canadian shores and not making it back out. It’s heartening to hear that 2018 started out with a much happier story.