Dead whale sparks rescue operation

Dead whale sparks rescue operation

24 June 2020

A MAJOR rescue operation swung into action on Sunday evening in response to an emergency call after residents in Ardglass reported seeing what appeared to be an upturned small boat off Phennick Point.

Portaferry Lifeboat, Newcastle Coastguard and the Coastguard’s Rescue 116 helicopter from Prestwick responded to the emergency.

As Portaferry lifeboat searched the area, what looked like the hull of a small craft was spotted by Coastguards around one and a half miles off shore.

The lifeboat was guided to the object by Coastguards with the help of local residents and it was discovered that it was a dead whale, around four metres long.

The rescue helicopter was 10 minutes from the scene off the coastline when the cause of the incident was identified and was turned back, with Newcastle Coastguard grateful to local residents for all their help during the incident.

Portaferry RNLI responded to the emergency call just after 9.15pm and while it was cloudy, there were good visibility conditions as they made their way to Ardglass, arriving 35 minutes later to begin searching the area for the upturned boat. 

After a detailed search of the area, the crew discovered that the reported sighting of a boat was dead whale floating on the surface.

The news was relayed to Belfast Coastguard, with the RNLI crew returning to Portaferry at 11.15pm.

Portaferry RNLI deputy launching authority, Graham Edgar, described the conclusion to Sunday evening’s search as “unfortunate”.

He added: “However, we are glad that no lives were in danger. Belfast Coastguard will report the whale as a hazard to navigation to ensure all other vessels in the area will be aware of the remains.”

Local councillor, Dermot Curran, has praised the emergency services for their swift response to the alarm.

He said that when the volunteers responded to the emergency, they did not know that reports about an upturned small boat were not true. 

“Thankfully, what was spotted from the shoreline was a dead whale. No boat had overturned and no lives were placed in danger,” continued the councillor.

He said the various arms of the emergency services — including the RNLI, Coastguard, Air Ambulance, PSNI, Ambulance Service and Mourne Mountain Rescue Team — work seamlessly during rescue missions across the district.

“The efforts of these highly trained individuals is something that we should never take for granted,” said Cllr Curran. “The district is so fortunate that various arms of the emergency services are ready to respond at a moment’s notice to help save lives.

“The various organisations also have the support of a very grateful community behind them and are not just highly regarded locally, but across the country.”

Cllr Curran said members of the emergency services went out in all weathers, quite often in the most challenging of conditions, and were very much part of the community.

He added: “When the unexpected happens and people find themselves in challenging and dangerous situations, they are fortunate to have such highly trained individuals on call and ready to help.”