If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That was very much the case after the carcass of an 18-metre Southern Right whale was towed to Hout Bay from Kommetjie this week.
NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said NSRI duty crews from Kommetjie and Hout Bay were activated at about 10.45am on Monday June 25 after an eye-witness spotted the carcass floating about 200m from the Kommetjie shoreline.
It was determined that the carcass would wash ashore near the Kommetjie boat slip-way, and the City of Cape Town’s marine animal stranding network was activated.
“As a precautionary measure NSRI Hout Bay launched the deep sea rescue craft Nadine Gordimer anticipating to reach the scene quickly to attach a towline to hold the whale carcass from washing ashore until a City marine unit could get to the scene,” Mr Lambinon said.
The NSRI Hout Bay crew arrived on the scene, and a towline was rigged to the carcass which was towed further out to sea.
The marine unit’s inflatable boat was not sufficient to tow the carcass, estimated to weigh 40 tons, and the NSRI Hout Bay rescue craft was tasked with towing it to Hout Bay harbour.
A day later, on Tuesday June 26, a second, smaller whale carcass was found on Kommetjie Beach.
NSRI Kommetjie station commander Ian Klopper said it proved to be a Southern Right whale foetus.
“It is suspected that this 3.5-meter baby whale carcass is related to the same incident of an 18-meter Southern Right whale carcass.
“It may be that the adult whale died during delivery of the baby and both whales died,” he said.
During Monday’s operation, the carcass arrived in the harbour late in the afternoon, and its presence was quickly noted by passers-by and interested residents despite the chilly weather.
Traffic officials cordoned off the area around the slipway as onlookers attempted to take photographs of the carcass, which was badly decomposed, spilling blubber from its flanks and giving off a rank odour.
Some children could be seen throwing stones onto the hulking white mass, drawing the anger of other bystanders.
A bulldozer and heavy duty machinery from the City’s cleansing department were in position to remove the carcass from the slipway, but unfortunately this was where the operation stalled.
As the moon rose in the gloaming, the team found that the bulldozer would not start. This necessitated that a mechanic be called, and despite his best efforts, he was unable to get the vehicle up and running. After discussing the situation, the operations team took the decision to tie the carcass to heavy boulders alongside the slipway, preventing it from floating away overnight.
They then returned on Tuesday to complete the operation.