Dramatic drone footage reveals the moment that a young humpback whale was freed after it was discovered hog-tied to a 300lb crab pot.
The whale was entangled in heavy ropes and buoys and anchored to the seafloor by a crab pot that was attached to 450 feet of heavy-duty line near a dock in Gustavus, Alaska.
According to the National Park Service, two local residents spotted the trapped whale, who was around four to five years old, on October 10.
The locals contacted the visitor information station at Glacier Bay National Park to report that a humpback whale “was trailing two buoys, making unusual sounds and having trouble moving freely.”
It is believed that the young humpback whale had most likely been entangled for at least three days before the residents discovered it.
‘Drone Imagery Assisted Tremendously’
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that rescue team members including NPS patrol teams and experts involved with the Large Whale Entanglement Response network found the humpback whale in a bad way.
With the aid of drone images and photography, the rescue teams were able to work out how the whale was entangled and formulate a plan to help.
“This was a complicated entanglement with a line through the whale’s mouth, and wrapped around the animal’s tail stock,” Fred Sharpe, advanced large whale entanglement responder with Alaska Whale Foundation, says in a statement.
“The drone imagery assisted tremendously with our understanding of the entanglement and how to prioritize our cutting attempts.”
The drone camera footage offers a glimpse into the complicated rescue operation. The whale did not make his rescue easy at first, circling and dodging the team, who were on a small inflatable raft, for about an hour.
Finally, the rescuers were able to start making cuts using a special knife — made out of razor blades attached to the inside of grappling hooks — on the end of a very long pole. The team worked throughout the day until it was almost dark, cutting parts of the rope bit by bit.
The whale immediately bolted into the sea when the team cut the final piece of rope.
Image credits: Header photo via NPS Photo / Sean Neilson, taken under NOAA MMHSRP permit no. 24359.