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.

True

From the time she was a little girl, Abby Recker loved helping people. Her parents kept her stocked up with first-aid supplies so she could spend hours playing with her dolls, making up stories of ballet injuries and carefully wrapping “broken” arms and legs.

Recker fondly describes her hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a simple place where people are kind to one another. There’s even a term for it—“Iowa nice”—describing an overall sense of agreeableness and emotional trust shown by people who are otherwise strangers.

Abby | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Driven by passion and the encouragement of her parents, Recker attended nursing school, graduating just one year before the unthinkable happened: a global pandemic. One year into her career as an emergency and labor and delivery nurse, everything she thought she knew about the medical field got turned upside down. That period of time was tough on everyone, and Nurse Recker was no exception.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

The Emperor of the Seas.

Imagine retiring early and spending the rest of your life on a cruise ship visiting exotic locations, meeting interesting people and eating delectable food. It sounds fantastic, but surely it’s a billionaire’s fantasy, right?

Not according to Angelyn Burk, 53, and her husband Richard. They’re living their best life hopping from ship to ship for around $44 a night each. The Burks have called cruise ships their home since May 2021 and have no plans to go back to their lives as landlubbers. Angelyn took her first cruise in 1992 and it changed her goals in life forever.

“Our original plan was to stay in different countries for a month at a time and eventually retire to cruise ships as we got older,” Angelyn told 7 News. But a few years back, Angelyn crunched the numbers and realized they could start much sooner than expected.

Keep Reading Show less
True

It takes a special type of person to become a nurse. The job requires a combination of energy, empathy, clear mind, oftentimes a strong stomach, and a cheerful attitude. And while people typically think of nursing in a clinical setting, some nurses are driven to work with the people that feel forgotten by society.

Keep Reading Show less

We're dancing along too.

Art can be a powerful unifier. With just the right lyric, image or word, great art can soften those hard lines that divide us, helping us to remember the immense value of human connection and compassion.

This is certainly the case with “Pasoori,” a Pakistani pop song that has not only become an international hit, it’s managed to bring the long divided peoples of India and Pakistan together in the name of love. Or at least in the name of good music.
Keep Reading Show less

Dr. Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas teaches you how to pee.

A pelvic floor doctor from Boston, Massachusetts, has caused a stir by explaining that something we all thought was good for our health can cause real problems. In a video that has more than 5.8 million views on TikTok, Dr. Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas says we shouldn’t go pee “just in case.”

How could this be? The moment we all learned to control our bladders we were also taught to pee before going on a car trip, sitting down to watch a movie or playing sports.

The doctor posted the video as a response to TikTok user Sidneyraz, who made a video urging people to go to the bathroom whenever they get the chance. Sidneyraz is known for posting videos about things he didn’t learn until his 30s. "If you think to yourself, 'I don't have to go,' go." SidneyRaz says in the video. It sounds like common sense but evidently, he was totally wrong, just like the rest of humanity.

Keep Reading Show less