18 January 2012
My family and I live in Nelson. We were in Collingwood, Golden Bay for a couple of days when I received a text from Project Jonah saying there had been a stranding at Farewell Spit, with a rendezvous planned for the next morning at Triangle Flat.
I text back to say I was in the area but without any gear, but I’d still be willing and able to help in any way I could.
I arrived at Triangle Flat at 7am with two of my daughters and went to see if we could help. The whales were beached about 1km from the car park.
When we got out to the stranded whales there were only about 10 other people with the main pod of 18 whales. We didn't have wetsuits but the water was only about 30cm deep, so we got involved straight away - after managing to take a few photos!
I'd given my daughters a crash course en route from Collingwood and they were thrilled to be able to be of real help. We each took responsibility for one whale - trying to keep them hydrated, soothed, upright and orientated.
The whales were in a tight-knit pod and there was quite a bit of movement as the water level rose and they became a bit more agitated. Some of the calves were moving around more as well at this point, maybe they were trying to locate their mothers. You had to be careful where you trod and avoid the odd thrashing tail.
We spent around an hour and a half in the water with the whales, by which time about 30 other people had arrived, mostly in wetsuits. So reluctantly we came out of the water about half an hour before the whales were refloated.
At this stage, the water was getting high and I was beginning to feel the effects of the cold a little, though I have to say it was quite hard to pull myself and my daughters away.
As we distanced ourselves from the pod we noticed how cold we were. We hadn’t realised earlier, it was probably the adrenaline that disguised it and the insidious way the cold creeps up on you.
My wife said I was beaming like a schoolboy when we arrived back at the car park!
My oldest daughter Rosie later managed to borrow a wetsuit and was involved in helping keep the whales from re-stranding. She even found herself on the boat for a while and experienced the thrill of seeing the whales swimming around freely, although still somewhat disoriented.
We all feel extremely priviledged to have been involved in this amazing experience and I know it's one that will stay with us forever.
We met some great people during the course of the day, from many different parts of NZ and other countries.
As Kim had said on the training course, the best training is actually getting out there and getting involved. Having said that, even though it's three or four years since I did my training, much of the most important aspects were still embedded in my memory, so the training was absolutely invaluable.
I certainly felt so much more confident than I would have done if I hadn't been through the training and was able to impart some of that knowledge on to other helpers who hadn't had any experience or training.
The way that everyone seemed to pull together and co-ordinate was testament to a very well organised operation.