Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I have been meaning to write about a last week’s past adventure for some time now, and I think I’m stalling because I know my words can’t do it justice. I feel like a childhood dream-come-true needs some kind of exuberant telling. But I’ll try my words at the telling, anyway.

Wednesday morning the house was a bustle with everyone packing their lunches and making their various ways to their IP’s. Amanda got a phone call from one of our service partners who was out shellfishing in Wellfleet Harbor…there was a WHALE in the harbor. Well, I decided right then and there no IP for me today, and ran to get a camera and some boots. My first whale! Besides Shamu. My first WILD whale! :) Pretty much the whole house followed suit, and we caravanned over to the harbor.

The Cape was in the middle of a rather snowy time—our driveway becomes (at times) an impassable ever-steepening mountain, and the back roads get pretty thick with snow. But it certainly does make the rest of the world look pretty—definitely Christmas-village-esque. So, needless to say, it was a very cold, very snowy time to be outside.

We met the whale just chilling in the harbor…well, I suppose he wasn’t exactly just hanging out, more like he was trying to figure out how in the world he got stuck in there and wondered how he was going to get back out. A stranding network volunteer came over and people started counting respirations. There were also for dolphin in the harbor…they appeared to be having a good time catching fish, but the silly guys weren’t paying attention to the lowering tide. A bunch of us went back to the house to put on more layers, grab some waders, and prepare for a possible stranding. And I was so excited! Haha, I know, seems very maniacal to be hoping for a stranding…but really, what a cool opportunity!

When I got back the harbormaster was leading the whale out of the harbor with some kind of sound-maker that detracts the whale. (a supposed happy ending…but unfortunately the same whale…a 40’ juvenile finback…re-stranded further down the beach and died a couple of days later) We then learned that one of the dolphins had stranded somewhere in the mud flats, and the other three were most likely going to strand on the opposite shore. So…the rescues began.

A somewhat hilarious sight appeared in front of me as I came to the mudflats. A couple of housemates had made their way to the dolphin and were starting to transport it…a couple other housemates were struggling to free themselves from the unforgiving knee-deep mud. This is the stinky black mud that you dog people know all too well as mud a dog can’t resist. There were already enough people with the dolphin so I stayed back and took some pictures. A very slow, very sticky dolphin transport ended successfully…the dolphin was put into a trailer and we headed to the other beach to check on his 3 friends.

These three dolphins were stranded in oyster flats. They were obviously already stressed, and people hovering over them with strange voices and prodding hands adds to their stress. Some of them would thrash around trying to free themselves which resulted in cuts from the sharp oyster shells. It was pretty amazing to hear them chirping to each other…it makes you wonder what they are saying…a check to make sure everyone is accounted for, a cry for help, a word of encouragement.

We were here for a couple of hours assisting the stranding network with taking data, measurements, blood, temperatures, and finally transporting all three into the main trailer. The transportation is done by almost rolling the animal onto a tarp…the tarp/stretcher has holes for the dolphin’s fins, and handles for 8 people to walk alongside and carry the animal. The plan was to drive all four dolphin to the tip of the Cape—Provincetown—and release them simultaneously into the ocean, away from any potential stranding areas.

Many other people had gathered at the P-town beach to help out with the release. People came in full dry suits…which was nice, because I was a little worried about walking into the ocean and having waves spill into my waders. After the dolphins were tagged and the release groups were formed, every group walked into the ocean holding the dolphin on its tarp (the front person went about chest deep, I was a little past my hip) and let the tarp go. Each dolphin slid into the water…and swam away. It was a slow transition back into the water for a couple, but each ended up swimming away in the end. Yay!

So it was a long day. And a cold day. And for some a very muddy day. But a good day. Someone asked me “did you get to look in its eye?” And now I can say yes to that question. Definitely a good day.

I'll be posting some pictures...and according to my mom there is a nice online news video of the release complete with a white blob (aka me in my jacket)


Luke said...

That is pretty sweet!

Rachel said...

That's a really cool story! I can't wait to see pictures.