Rescuers save humpback from a tangle of ropes

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on September 30, 2013

By Christine Callaghan

“I’ve been trying to think of words that can adequately describe today’s experience on the Bay of Fundy, and most come up short.

But plain old ‘unforgettable’ works, because I know that I, and anyone who was there, will always remember Foggy’s rescue this afternoon.”

Christine Callaghan, a guide with Pirate’s Cove Whale Watch in Tiverton, Long Island, wrote this post on Facebook about Foggy’s rescue on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 29.

“The Fundy Cruiser wasn’t long out of port on our 1 p.m. trip when we sighted a couple of blows, and headed in that direction. A call came from Richie Crocker, on one of the Ocean Explorations zodiacs, to tell us that there was an entangled whale nearby.

“So our captain, Todd Sollows, detoured in that direction. We were heartsick to see an ‘old friend’, a female Humpback named Foggy, in a real mess.

“She had rope wrapped around her head and across her blowholes, and as we carefully approached, we could see that she also had a loop of rope across her peduncle (the narrow part of her tail, just ahead of the flukes), dragging a mass of old lobster traps beneath her.

“She was listing to one side with the weight of all the gear. Thankfully, she was still breathing regularly and with some force.

“But because she was hardly drifting at all with the tide, Todd figured she might be anchored.

“She was accompanied by another whale that we were able to identify as Grommet. I will challenge anyone who claims that humans are the only intelligent, empathetic animals.

“Grommet never left Foggy’s side, frequently spy-hopping throughout the long afternoon.”

Spy-hopping is when whales stick just their heads out of the water and appear to look around at the above surface world.

“We were all waiting for the whale disentanglement crew in their fast rescue craft to arrive from Campobello Island.”

Campobello Island is on the other side of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick about 80 kilometres away.  They arrived about 5 p.m.

“Another boat, the Shearwater, from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA, happened to be in the Bay of Fundy this afternoon, and came to provide any assistance they could.

“After assessing Foggy’s predicament, they stood by awaiting the FRC with its specially designed equipment. It’s hard to imagine that Foggy and Grommet didn’t comprehend what was happening as the Campobello crew worked to cut first the rope snagging Foggy’s tail, and then the ones around her head.”

Rescuers cut the last rope shortly after 5:30  p.m.

“The crew decided to leave a single strand in her mouth, fearing they would cause excessive bleeding if they dragged it out, and figuring that she would likely be able to rid herself of it.

“Foggy allowed them to approach within feet, and quietly tolerated their work to cut her free.

“Now comes the truly amazing thing… the instant the rope came off Foggy’s head, Grommet dove, and then burst from the water in a spectacular breach.

“Tell me that wasn’t a celebration.

“The last we saw of them, the two whales were heading side by side in and up the Bay.

“And everyone on all three boats had huge smiles on their faces. Well done, all.”

Christine Callaghan is a guide with Pirate’s Cove Whale Watch of Tiverton, Long Island.