A Uist tour boat operator has helped to free 10 pilot whales during a dramatic and exhausting rescue mission in Lochboisdale, South Uist.
With the help of local fish farm workers and a marine diver, David Steele, who owns and operates Uist Sea Tours, liberated 10 pilot whales after a group of 17 had swum into a precarious stretch of water in Lochboisdale.
In what was an arduous salvation operation carried out across three days, rescuers pulled the whales by their tails enabling the majority of the cetaceans to swim to safety by Saturday evening.
Recounting the rescue, David told the Free Press: “I got a call on Thursday evening saying that there was a pod of something in the bay, so I launched the boat and went out to have a look.
“It was at the south side of the Lochboisdale Marina – which is very rocky and very shallow.
“I knew straight away that it was a group of pilot whales and one of them seemed to be behaving differently to the rest – so I tried phoning the relevant people but I didn’t get very far.
“I knew what was coming the next day!
“The next day, me and my sister went looking for them and my sister found them all stranded on the shoreline.”
With an hour remaining before the tide came in, David realised action needed to be taken.
“I called the Mowi fish farm in Lochboisdale and they sent a boat round with a couple of boys on it. I jumped on that and we started pulling the whales off the shoreline.
“We thought we had only pulled eight off but it was difficult to count – it turned out that we had actually pulled 10 off.”
The next day David went out looking for them but noticed that the whales had started heading towards a dangerous area.
At that point, David and the rescuers had been joined by a member of the charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
“We went out and we had a boy from BDMLR with us, we started to pull the whales by the tails again using our hands,” said David.
“There was one whale on its own and we managed to escort that one out.
“We brought in another boat and between the two we managed to herd them out the Loch.
“We took them right away to the Minch and they seemed to be swimming really good then.
“The fish farm was really good they provided a boat and a few bodies for us.”
He added: “I was only too glad that I was able to phone people up and help the whales and do something positive.
“We got told that there is only a five per cent survival rate when this happens – and we saved 10 out of 17 – I am absolutely buzzing from it all.”