December 31, 2004 12:30 PM
team aboard the Yellow Fin has just reported in via satellite phone
that the whale is now, apparently, completely free of all gear. The
operation took place approximately 30 miles off the South Carolina coast.
Participating in the mission were Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo, David Morin
and Scott Landry of the Center for Coastal Studies; Jamison Smith, Tom
Pitchford and Alicia Windham-Reid from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission, Clay George of Georgia DNR and Barb Zoodsma and Gretchen Lovewell
the team began by adding drag (buoys and a drogue) to the gear trailing
from the whale in an attempt to slow it down and make access to the wraps
on the head possible. The whale did not react as hoped and instead
fought the added drag and the team was unable to reach the head wrap.
Next, as was previously planned, addtional drag was added to the gear by
pressure from one of the inflatable boats. Shortly thereafter the
team felt a line part and the Wildlife Trust South Carolina aerial team
circling overhead reported that no gear was now visible on the whale.
operation was done while everything was in motion, with travel and direction
dictated by the whale. The team has been following the whale and
was actually working on it as both were moving steadily southwest at about
3 knots (3.5 statute miles (5.5 kilometers) per hour). From the time
the team arrived at the whale at 3:30 yesterday afternoon until the whale
was released at 11:00 this morning, the team and the whale had traveled
together for 50 nautical miles (57.5 miles or 92.6 kilometers).
The team is
currently steaming into port at Charleston and will assist NOAA with further
investigation of the recovered gear.
The success of this operation, really, beyond our hopes, owes much to
the efforts of many individuals and organizations within the Atlantic Large
Whale Disentanglement Network. Especially, it would not have been
possible to even reach the whale yesterday without the efforts of Blair
Mase and Barb Zoodsma of NOAA - SER, Bill McLellan of the University of
North Carolina-Wilmington, the Wildlife Trust/NOAA aerial teams from Georgia
and South Carolina, Jamison Smith of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission, Bob Bowman of the Center for Coastal Studies, and especially
the crew of the Coast Guard cutter
Yellow Fin. In their
honor, the disentanglement team has named this whale Yellow Fin.
December 31, 2004 8:30 AM
The the crew
of the Coast Guard cutter Yellow Fin, along with the disentanglement
team, remained with the whale as it traveled through the night for 37 nautical
miles until dawn. Disentanglement operations will continue today.
December 30, 2004 6:30 PM
at 3:30 this afternoon, the disentanglement team, working from the NOAA
21' rigid hull inflatable, made 15 to 20 attempts to reach the lines crossing
tightly over the whale's head without attempting to add addtional control
lines to the trailing gear. The whale immediately became extremely
evasive and the team was unsuccessful in these attempts.
The team was
successful at removing a considerable amount of the gear trailing behind
the whale. They also repositioned the telemetry buoy behind two medium
size floats spaced 15 feet apart and now attached to the remaining gear
trailing approximately 90 feet behind the flukes. The telemetry buoy
which is now at the surface nearly all the time, was fitted with a strobe
to allow easy tracking through the night.
are calm and clear.
the team plans to add addtional, large floats near the tail of the whale
to keep it at the surface and, hopefully, better enable further attempts
to cut the lines on the whale's head.
December 30, 2004 3:30 PM
Trust/Georgia DNR/NOAA Twin Otter just reported in by satellite phone that
they have located the whale several miles southeast of the Charleston breakwater.
The Yellowfin is nearby with the disentanglement team. The
whale continues to travel SSW at approximately 2 knots.
December 30, 2004 1:00 PM
hour, the disentanglement team will board the USCG cutter Yellowfin
in Charleston, South Carolina. This is the same vessel they worked
from last spring with entangled right whale, Kingfisher.
They hope to
catch up with the whale this afternoon, do what they can during remaining
then stay with the whale overnight and continue disentanglement operations
tomorrow. The NOAA vessel R/V Ferguson from the Grays Reef
National Marine Sanctuary is expected to relieve the Yellowfin first
thing tomorrow morning and act as the mothership for tomorrow's operations.
for the period are for favorable working conditions in the area.
December 30, 2004 7:30 AM
Beginning yesterday afternoon and continuing overnight, satellite telemetry
indicates that the whale has changed direction and is now traveling generally
southwesterly. Therefore, the whale did not come within range of
disentanglement teams staged in Wilmington, NC, and on-water operations
have been postponed for the morning.
A Wildlife Trust/NOAA aircraft, stationed in Charleston, South Carolina
will attempt to collect more images of the whale today for reassessment
of the entanglement. Meanwhile, on-water disentanglement teams are
preparing to re-stage operations farther south.
Update: December 29, 2004
The Center for Coastal Studies along with disentanglement
teams from the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic will be staging in Wilmington,
North Carolina tonight for a possible attempt to cut entangling lines and
reduce the gear trailing from the entangled right whale first reported
off Cape Hatteras on December 6. The tentative plan is to locate
the whale based on the latest telemetry and projected position along with
the help of a surveillance aircraft on Thursday afternoon. If the
whale is found, the entanglement will be reassessed on-scene and operations
will proceed as conditions allow. If it is believed that further efforts
will be productive, a vessel will track the whale overnight with the disentanglement
team for an early morning effort on Friday.
The goal of these operations will be to attempt
actions hoped to improve the long-term prospects for this whale, however
complete disentanglement is unlikely at this time due the nature of the
The success of this operation is dependent, as
always, on workable weather conditions, including relatively calm seas
and good visibility. Also, preliminary planning is based on a three-day
projection of the track of the whale; this will be continuously updated
and logistics will be altered to the extent possible and necessary.