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Video Shows Humpback Whale Trying to Free Itself From Ropes of Buoy After Being Stuck for Two Days

Rescuers worked on the whale for five hours.

A humpback whale tangled in 300 ft of rope was dramatically rescued by a team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the entire incident was caught on camera thanks to drone footage. The rescue team spent almost five hours meticulously cutting the rope off in the correct places to free the giant whale, which was accompanied by three other humpbacks off Texada Island, British Columbia. "We were like wow, this is something we have ever encountered," says Paul Cottrell, of the Marine Mammal Rescue team. Here's what happened to the whale—and how it surprised the rescuers.

Reports of a Whale Tangled in Rope

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada had been hunting for the animal after people were sending in reports of seeing a whale tangled in rope. "This animal we had been trying to locate for two days," Cottrell says. "It had been seen periodically, showing up in one area and traveling a lot of ground. And they were able to put a satellite tag on the trailing gear which was really important because then we knew where the animal was and they were able to stay with the animal and able to get myself and my team there." Keep reading to learn more and see the video.

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Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Cottrell's team eventually caught up with the mighty mammal, which had the rope in its mouth. They were surprised to see the animal had three companions with it. "So when we saw the animal and realized oh my gosh, it's not just one animal, it had three companion animals with it. So we were like wow, this is something we have ever encountered."

Meticulous Work

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Cottrell and his team had the painstaking task of making sure they were cutting through rope without hurting the whale. "We worked for four to five hours on this animal and methodically went through… and again, with having three other animals with this animal, it was quite challenging. First of all we throw up a drone, we always get a gear configuration just to make sure it's safe, and we really want to make sure if we are making cuts we are making the right cuts. Because if you make the wrong cut the animal can be in worst shape and we can't get another working line on."

Flipping Out

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

The whale noticed there was something happening—and did a backflip, much to the surprise of the rescue team. "We put a little additional drag on the buoy line that has the line going through the mouth," Cottrell says. "And the animal, which was just magnificent, we put this drag on and we were going to work up further but the animal sensed that little bit of drag and it basically did a spy hop and a backflip. And all the gear came flying out and the animal took off with its companion animals."

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Free At Last

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Cottrell's team followed the whale for a while to make sure it was uninjured. "We were able to follow it with the drone and just confirm the animal was gear free," he says. "And it was very energetic after it took off. It must have felt a sense of relief with not all that drag on it. The team was overwhelmed with just happiness. It was just amazing. and again, this only was successful because people called it in multiple times and we were able to keep on top of that and eventually find the animal." 

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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