Why on Earth would 4 men on an inflatable raft try to rodeo a humpback whale? To save it.

On Friday, Jan. 8, Alistair Jack got the call — a whale was in trouble.

Alistair is the Scottish director of British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR). When a seal gets stranded or a whale gets tangled in fishing gear, they're the people the country turns to.

Alistair heard the details — a 40-foot-long humpback was tangled in prawn pots on a sea loch in northern Scotland. He checked the weather forecast. It was bad.


But there was a tiny window — just four to five hours where the wind would be light enough to let a boat go out.

He knew what he had to do: assemble the Large Whale Disentanglement Team.

Image used with permission from Laura Shirra and BDMLR.

Alistair arrived at the town closest to the whale at 3:30 a.m. the next morning.

By dawn, the rest of the team had arrived too — seven other volunteers from all across Scotland. Some came from as far as Glasgow, over 180 miles away.

BDMLR has more than 2,000 medics in towns across the U.K. who can help with stranded animals. But the disentanglement team is special — they're the SWAT team of whale rescue.

The team set out just as the sun was starting to rise.

GIF from volunteer Noel Hawkins, theklondyker/YouTube.

The team approached the whale by boat, then Alistair, joined by two other volunteers named Brian Corbett and Noel Hawkins, climbed into a specialized inflatable raft and maneuvered closer.

This was the first time the team could get a good look at the whale's predicament. Lines from the prawn pots were wrapped around the whale's tail, fins, and head, dragging it down like an anchor.

Entanglement is dangerous for two reasons.

First, whales are mammals, which means they need to breathe air. If the entanglement is really heavy, the animal could drown.

A whale's blowhole is actually its nose. A humpback usually needs to breathe about once every 15 minutes. Image from NOAA/Wikimedia Commons.

Second, even if the fishing gear is light, it can dig and cut into the animal's skin, which can mean a long, slow death by infection.

The team got to work, using specialized cutting poles to try to snip the lines holding the whale.

But no matter what they tried, they couldn't quite get a hold.

GIF from volunteer Noel Hawkins, theklondyker/YouTube.

So they tried something else.

Joined by another volunteer named David Scott, Alistair and the team in the inflatable raft moved their craft directly over the whale. David and Alistair grabbed a hold of the line around its head. Using the gear like a horse's bridle, they helped hold the whale still while Brian, now closer, started to try to cut the lines away.

Saving a whale can be incredibly dangerous work.

During the entire operation, the rescuers stayed in the inflatable raft. Though Alistair is an experienced scuba diver, it would be too easy for a diver to get hurt or end up tangled in the line as well. Even in the boat, it's very dangerous.

"You're working with a wild animal," said Alistair. "It's frightened. It's confused. It doesn't necessarily know you're there to help it."

And even if everyone stays in the boat, it doesn't mean the rescue will necessarily be easy. Last year, a whale off Iceland ended up towing the boat across the ocean.

But back in Loch Eriboll, the rescue was actually going well.

For one thing, the Scottish whale was nowhere near as rambunctious as the Icelandic one had been in 2015.

"It seemed to help us," said Alistair. "It was lifting its head up to allow us to cut the ropes, so it was quite a placid animal, this one."

GIF from volunteer Noel Hawkins, theklondyker/YouTube.

With the lines cut, the team was even able to haul up some of the pots that had entangled it. Their job wasn't over, however — there were still multiple lines wrapped around different parts of the tail and running around the whale's right flipper.

But as they cut the lines around the fins, one of the lines that had been holding the whale unexpectedly let go, releasing the whale from its anchor. It swam off with just a few loose nonthreatening lines around its tail.

By noon the whale was safe, the team leaving just in time to beat the heavy wind and rain. It was an absolutely textbook rescue.

Teams like BDMLR's are becoming more and more important.

The last few years have seen record numbers of entanglements.

Scott Landry, director of the Center for Coastal Study's entanglement team in the U.S. told Upworthy the increase is due to a combination of factors: bigger whale populations, more fishing, and people getting better at spotting and reporting entanglements.

Unfortunately, there isn't an easy way to prevent entanglements. "While there has been some movement in entanglement prevention, we have not yet found a silver bullet," said Scott.

As for BDMLR, "the primary thing at the moment is education," said Alistair. People need to know not to try to free whales themselves. Call the experts. If you're in the U.S. and see a whale in trouble, call the U.S. Coast Guard or one of these special hotlines from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The increase in entanglements is troubling, but the fact that teams like BDMLR exist is a ray of hope for whales.

And that's something to celebrate.

GIF from bTV

Watch the moment when they free the whale's head below.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

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4 minutes of silence can boost your empathy for others. Watch as refugees try it out.

We could all benefit from breaking down some of the walls in our lives.

Images via Amnesty Poland

This article originally appeared on 05.26.16


You'd be hard-pressed to find a place on Earth with more wall-based symbolism than Berlin, Germany.

But there, in the heart of Germany's capital city, strangers sat across from one another, staring into each other's eyes. To the uninitiated, it may look as though you've witnessed some sort of icy standoff. The truth, however, couldn't be more different.

This was about tearing down walls between people.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."