Highlands & Islands

Islanders in Uist rally to save pod of distressed whales

Stranded whale Image copyright David Steele
Image caption A group of long-finned pilot whales got into difficulty over the weekend

Ten whales have been rescued by islanders after becoming stranded in shallow water around the Western Isles.

The animals were part of a pod of 20 long-finned pilot whales first spotted last Thursday night near Lochboisdale, South Uist.

From Friday until Sunday, animals from the group repeatedly stranded and were refloated by islanders.

Seven whales did not survive, but the rest of the pod were last seen swimming in open water between Uist and Skye.

Image copyright Uist Sea Tours
Image caption Islanders helped whale rescue medics in an effort to save the pod

Members of a family from South Uist involved in saving the whales sang Gaelic songs to the animals from a boat as they swam off.

The charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) co-ordinated the rescue operation. It has thanked the efforts islanders made to help save the pod.

Working within lockdown restrictions, it managed to assemble a small team of experienced whale rescuers and local residents.

Businesses including Uist Sea Tours and fish farm company Mowi provided boats and volunteers. The Skydancer cafe supplied rescuers with refreshments and Uist Storm-Pods gave a BDMLR medic accommodation in one of its holiday pods.

Over the course of three days, the volunteers searched for stranded whales and any that were found were refloated.

Image copyright Uist Sea Tours
Image caption Ten of 17 whales that stranded were saved

On Sunday, whales were found in difficulty in a narrow rocky cove, tangled in seaweed, and had they to be repeatedly pushed off rocks.

BDMLR said the whales were distressed and some were injuring themselves.

With the use of two boats the rescuers were eventually able to "herd" the animals to open water.

Long-finned pilot whales can be found in pods of about 20 animals off the Western Isles.

They can grow to 6.5m (21ft) in length and feed on squid and fish, diving down as a far as 500m (1,640ft) to find their prey.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites