Entangled Humpback Whale, Lunning, Shetland

*Update* 10 September 14:30
Apparently there’s no sign of the humpback whale today despite a search all morning. It’s thought the whale has either drowned or broken free and swum off – please let it be the latter. News from BBC News: “Shetland humpback whale rescue search called off” – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-11256881

Thursday 9 September dawned miserable, with driving rain and strong wind – and it just got worse. Quite a change from the mini heaatwave Shetland had been enjoying for about a week until the day before yesterday. Anyway, news came through that a humpback whale was entangled in lobster lines (creel lines) off Lunning on the east coast of Shetland. I was busy with my Lightroom catalog, updating some of the many photos I’d taken over the summer – an ideal job on such a dismal day. I half-decided not to act upon the news, in view of (1) the weather and (2) I wasn’t sure I really wanted to see the sad sight of an entangled whale. I carried on cataloguing.

Another update came, and then another. I could resist no longer and got my wet weather gear and camera equipment together, stuffed down some food as fast as humanly possible and off I went to find Lunning. When I got there the weather was even worse than in town but at least the wind was behind me as I walked up the hill. I met a gaggle of would-be observers who informed me the whale had left 5 minutes ago. Unconvinced and, knowing humpbacks can stay underwater for a very long time, I viewed the area it had last been seen. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, a blow and then another. But then it appeared to swim off towards the east but probably just dived again.

It was a fair way off from my then viewing point so I headed out on the headland and kept moving closer to where I thought it had headed. After a good 15 minutes I thought I might not see it again but then, back over where I had first seen it, it surfaced again and seemed to be circling. Closer views revealed it wasn’t especially large and others more knowledgeable than I said it was probably a juvenile. At this distance it was obvious just how close inshore the animal was – perhaps 150-200m from the shore – and that it was completely shackled and able to swim only a very short distance, mostly round in a circle about the pink bouy in one of the attached photos.

This whale has already attracted international attention and experts from the US have been contacted by various bodies from Shetland – entanglement like this is, apparently unusual in UK waters but much more frequent off the US coast. News sources suggest various individuals and groups may be hoping to try to release the whale, perhaps as early as today, 10 September. I and many others sincerely hope so.

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One Response to “Entangled Humpback Whale, Lunning, Shetland”

  1. 2010 in review « Austin Taylor Photography Blog Says:

    […] Entangled Humpback Whale, Lunning, Shetland September 2010 3 […]

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