Christine Kitchen's Story

Project Jonah Stranding Advice Rescue Stories Juanita Farrell

25 February 2011

As humans, we sometimes construct layers through our lives that distance and insulate us from truly feeling, because we fear that this feeling might overwhelm us.
As a trained Marine Mammal Medic for Project Jonah, the Spirits Bay mass stranding was to be my first stranding experience and at the time I didn’t know what a profound effect it would have on me.
I wasn’t sure if I could hold myself together at the stranding, so prior to arriving I made a conscious decision to shut down my emotions. But nothing could prepare me for what I saw on the beach, with dozens of whales having already died before help arrived. My emotional insulation failed and I hung my head as I choked back the tears.
I witnessed human beings stepping outside themselves desperately striving to help these magnificent creatures survive. Many volunteers had survived on no sleep. They were physically and emotionally drained. All were vigilant in their mission to ensure the comfort and survival of the remaining whales.
There were huge logistical challenges involved in the complex operation to rescue the whales that had survived. Whales pose other challenges such as the threat to their emotional wellbeing, pressure on their internal organs from lying on a hardened surface, and the need to keep their skin constantly wet.  
When the whales were eventually transported and released at Rarawa Beach, I felt a combination of elation, awe, sadness and fear. Elation for the release of these 12 magnificent creatures, awe of their graceful beauty, sadness for those we lost, and fear for the many more who will continue to strand.
I acknowledge Project Jonah for their strength, determination and pure love of these beautiful creatures, their passion and commitment to do everything in their power to help is amazing. I have learned never to underestimate the power of human spirit. It is always there to be used for the highest good.
If we are passionate about saving whales we need to work together. With all hands on deck we can make a difference with Project Jonah.
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