Dunbar RNLI’s lifeboats were called out on Tuesday night to help remove a humpback whale that had washed up dead on the shore at Tyninghame.
Volunteer crews for both the inshore (ILB) and all-weather (ALB) towed the nine-metre carcass to another the beach at Dunbar where a post-mortem could be carried out.
East Lothian Council’s countryside rangers requested lifeboat assistance as the whale’s location at John Muir Country Park had made it difficult for them to conduct their tests. At 5.30pm on Tuesday evening the crew of the inshore lifeboat managed to tow the whale from the shore to Dunbar where the tow was picked up by the all-weather boat.
The inshore boat crew then assisted again when they reached their destination to help move the whale onto the beach. It took two tractors to manoeuvre the animal beyond the high water line and in total it took six hours to complete the operation at 11.30pm.
The whale, a juvenile male, was believed to have been feeding in the area and had become entangled in rope before drowning when it was then washed ashore on a high tide. The post mortem was being carried out by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding scheme.
Dunbar all-weather lifeboat coxswain Gary Fairbairn said the tow rope snapped twice during the operation – an indication of the challenges faced by both crews.
He said: “It was more awkward than anything else because we were dealing with a dead weight. When you add to that the considerable drag in the water, it was a tricky task.”
It is the third time the lifeboat crew has been tasked to help move a whale in recent years. The volunteers have also been called upon to assist with a dead leatherback turtle in that time.
Gary said: “It is always good to be able to assist and help the Countryside Rangers and, for us, it turned into a worthwhile training exercise.”