18 January 2012
I never expected my first involvement in a whale stranding would mean I didn’t even get wet! I was on holiday in Motueka when I received the text message about the stranding off Farewell Spit and told my friend that we would be off at 5.30am to help!
I trained two years ago as a marine mammal medic and had an idea of what to expect, but I knew that my injured knee would mean I couldn’t go in the water.
Instead I stayed at the DOC base and offered my help. I made hot drinks for the Project Jonah volunteers and DOC wardens coming in tired, cold and wet.
I talked to the constant stream of people who arrived at the beach. Mostly they wanted to know what had happened. Could they help? Would the whales survive? What was going to happen to the whales that died?
I listened to the very knowledgeable DOC wardens as they told me more about their experiences at past strandings; the problems, the concerns and the outcomes. I was then able to answer questions the public asked and tell them that if the whales re-stranded at low tide we would certainly need help to keep them wet.
A large number of people returned at low tide to see if they were needed. They came fully equipped and ready to help. There were some sad young faces when they heard they wouldn’t be needed this time.
It was a very interesting day and I learnt so much. I also discovered there is a role for Project Jonah volunteers who don’t want to go in the water.
The whole rescue operation is about team work. That includes providing support for those who are planning the rescue, operating the radios, and helping the whales.
There is also a role for people to keep the general public informed with accurate information and pointers on what they can do to help.