(Editor's Note: Thanks to reader and Laguna Niguel Patch blogger Donna Kalez for sending this story.)
"Bart," a juvenile gray whale that was found off Dana Point about 2:30 p.m. on Friday with its peduncle entangled in line and dragging a net, is now completely free, thanks to the incredible efforts of various members of a disentanglement team.
According to Laguna Niguel Patch blogger, Donna Kalez of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, this dramatic 24-hour whale rescue to remove 50-feet of netting from the young California gray whale occurred over the weekend near Dana Point.
The team included Capt. Dave Anderson of Capt. Dave's Dolphin and Whale Safari, and many volunteer members.
"Dana Wharf is thankful to Capt. Dave and the disentanglement team for what they did to free Bart , Dana Wharf Whale Watching saw BART on Friday during a 2-4 p.m. whale watching trip along with the Dolphin Safari," she said.
After getting permission from National Marine Fisheries Service, Dave's
team attached a buoy with a strobe light to the whale Friday night; they
struggled two hours to reattach it after it came off. Another team member,
Peter Bartholomew (along with Hank Davis and Gary Weiberg) babysat the
whale throughout the night so that it could be easily found on Saturday.
Early Saturday morning, the team provided its rigid bottom inflatables for the procedures. Bartholomew's team handed off the whale they had watched throughout the night and the disentanglement team decided to name the whale "Bart" to honor Bartholomew's efforts.
Working with specialized disentanglement equipment, Capt. Dave led the team through a dramatic effort that continued all day, until shortly before
dark. Observed was a vast array of dead marine life called "by-catch"
caught in the estimated 50-feet of netting: these included a small sea
lion, a leopard shark, two angel sharks, various crabs, fish and rays.
The team wasn't sure they would be able to finish the job with time running
out before dark when one of the control lines snapped. 'Bart' submerged,
taking four huge buoys with him like a scene from 'Jaws'. When he surfaced
one minute later, the pullof the buoys had broken off the last of the
partly severed ropes and netting and Bart was free (trailing only a 6'-8'
'Bart' went first to the second support vessel and swam close by and
underneath it several times. After placing their face masks in the water
and taking underwater photos, they were ableto confirm that 'Bart' was now
free of nets. Bart then went back to the first boat, and came close enough
to be touched. He raised his head out of the water, and opened his mouth.
Team members all felt that this was his way of saying 'thank you'.
In a strange coincidence , Anderson just released a new book, "Lily, A
Gray Whale's Odyssey," a photographic coffee table novel on this very
topic, about Lily, another gray whale who was entangled in nets and rescued
with Capt. Dave's help two years earlier. Half of the profits from the
proceeds of this book go to charity to help the plight of hungry children
and entangled whales.
This Herculean effort helped by ideal sea conditions. "Bart" now has an
excellent chance of survival, thanks to this dedicated trained group of
rescuers, according to Capt. Dave's team.