Stranded whale at Immingham docks freed

A 30ft (9m) whale that was stranded on a mud flat off the Lincolnshire coast has been freed.

The animal - believed to be a minke whale - was freed at 14:50 BST.

More than 50 rescuers had been working since 08:00 BST to free the animal, which had two-thirds of its body stuck in mud at Immingham docks.

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, along with the British Divers Marine Life, Humber Rescue and the RNLI dug a channel to help refloat the animal.

Mark Ellis, a watch officer at Humber Coastguard, said: "The position that the whale was in was very dangerous. The whale was actually stuck on its side with one of its flippers in the mud.

"The problem with that is that as the tide rises there's the potential that the blowhole can fill with water and drown the whale.

"So the thing we needed to do was to clear a channel at the side of the whale so that as the tide rose, the whale could roll... and become level."

During the seven-hour rescue operation there was concern for the whale's health.

Mr Ellis explained: "It had seemed to become quite lethargic. As time went on and it was continually stranded in the mud it became less and less active.

"However, once the waves started crashing over [the whale] again and once the rescue crews managed to point it in the right direction it suddenly sprung into life."

Jan Richardson, from Humber Coastguard, was at the scene watching when it swam away.

She said: "It was quite a thing to watch actually and it was a really nice feeling.

"It splashed about in one place for a couple of minutes, disappeared under water and then the next we saw it further out towards the jetty. There was a splash and then it disappeared.

"I was absolutely elated."

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