This Week in Dramatic Maritime Rescues, The USCG Frees a Pair of Turtles from the Gallows and a Whale Is Saved at a Billabong Pro Surf Contest in South Africa

by Owen James Burke

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Still frame from Go Coast Guard’s video.

The United States Coast Guard–and most any Coast Guard around the world–does a lot more than save seamen and obliterate drug-running vessels; they are saviors of all life at sea, and true stewards of our delicate blue planet.

Offshore of the United States’ southeast coast, two turtles were found helplessly tangled in what looked to be a makeshift driftnet on Monday. The United States Coast Guard hurried to the scene with, in all seriousness, probably minutes to spare.

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Still frame from Go Coast Guard’s video.

The first turtle was not terribly tangled, though it wouldn’t have come free on its own. The second turtle had a veritable noose around its neck, and was barely respirating. The line was so tightly wrapped its neck that it had to be cut with scissors–a risky undertaking at sea in a bouncy inflatable. The real sign that this turtle was heading for the light was when it immediately choked up the seawater it had begun to swallow; the poor reptile was not only asphyxiated, but drowning.

Start your week off with this video of a unique Coast Guard rescue.

Posted by Go Coast Guard on Monday, 29 June 2015

 

The United States Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (“always ready”), proves to be, time and again, a grave understatement.

Then on Tuesday, some 8,000 miles away at the Billabong Ballito Pro in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, commotion broke out beyond the break, and surf photographers soon focused their lens on another subject: a pair of vessels struggling amongst the shark nets, which are not designed to capture the top predators, but deter them. Unfortunately, a net is a net and, as they are wont, they catch things.

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Photo: Barry Bowditch.

The small boats, belonging to the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board which establishes and fastidiously maintains and patrols shark nets around South Africa, were on a mission. There had been a 7-8-meter humpback whale in the area with a skin disease, and the board had been keeping a watchful eye on it, fearing that it might soon beach, or try to. The next thing they knew, they were receiving a report of a whale being caught in the nets, and intuitively, they knew just who it was.

It’s likely that the whale was attempting to beach, as it had drawn so near to the shore before becoming hung up. While it was a struggle–as is always the case when dealing with multi-ton beasts in distress–the team acted quickly, and managed to free the whale, which upon release, gave a big slap of the fluke at the surface as it took off for deeper waters, hopefully for the wiser, and to overcome its affliction.

Read the photographer’s account of the whale rescue off South Africa at News24. -OJB

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