How to Disentangle a 40 Ton Whale: Move Very Slow, While Moving Very Fast

Dec 11, 2015

Last Friday a 40-ton humpback whale was found in Cape Cod Bay entangled with a buoy line around its flukes, unable to swim.

The Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team at the Center for Coastal Studies sprang to action when the call came. In just twenty or so minutes they were at the entanglement site in their 35-foot boat Ibis. Scott Landry, director of the team, said team members used a grappling hook to catch the buoy line.

Using special 30-foot-long tools - essentially very sharp knives on the ends of poles - team members worked to cut the line.

Sea conditions, according to Landry, "were not great, and they were worsening." When working to disentangle a whale, the team tries not to stress the animal more than it is already, which means approaching carefully and proceeding calmly.  Their mission, Landry said, is "moving as slow as possible, but also as fast as possible, to get the job done."

When this particular whale was cut free, it immediately took off swimming, leaving the area. That's a very good sign, said Landry. It means the whale was still in good shape after the ordeal.

Steve Junker's conversation with Scott Landry from All Things Considered is posted below. Give it a listen.