A retired fisherman who was walking his dog when he spotted a humpback whale in trouble has been praised for his rescue efforts.
John McKinnon, from Skye in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, saw the whale from land and immediately alerted the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) team in Ullapool.
But before the team could respond, Mr McKinnon and his nephew jumped onto a local creel boat to come to the aid of the enormous animal.
The pair managed to cut free a rope that had entangled the whale’s tail, and set the cetacean free.
When BDMLR volunteer rescuer Noel Hawkins arrived some three hours later, he was relieved to find that McKinnon had acted so quickly.
Hawkins said: “John and Gordon McKinnon from the Elgol creeler Sunny Jim saved the whale.
“John spotted the whale by chance when he was out walking his dog. They headed out in Gordon’s boat and managed to pick up the buoy and haul it in then cut the ropes and they fell away and the whale was free.
“It swam away but then turned around and came back to the boat and sat looking at the men before heading off again.”
According to a Facebook post from the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, “John and Gordon McKinnon went out to try and help a tangled minke whale on their creel boat ‘Sunny Jim’ from Elgol. They freed it and when BDMLR medics met them to see if they could get pics to help ID the animal it turned out it was actually a humpback and one that a previous attempt to free had been made on a couple of weeks previously.”
Mr Hawkins confirmed, saying: “We got a call just over two weeks ago about a humpback whale trapped in ropes in south Skye at the Sound of Sleat. By the time we got there it was dark and we were not allowed to take the Marine Scotland boat out until the next day.
“We looked around the next day and couldn’t see it anywhere. We assumed it was drowned in the bad weather as it had been trapped to the bottom. Everyone was really disappointed.”
After looking at the McKinnon’s pictures, Hawkins discovered it was a humpback that the McKinnons had rescued – the same humpback that had disappeared weeks before.
“We are over the moon,” Mr Hawkins said. “These guys are heroes as far as I am concerned.
“Humpbacks are not particularly common in this area but there have been more sightings of late. We are not sure why, we don’t know if it is weather conditions or feeding conditions.”
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