Thursday, May 31, 2012

Peter Brown, Hero to One Young Humpback Whale

Photo courtesy: wjklos/CC BY 2.0

Although the intricate messages conveyed within a whale's call are mostly lost on human ears, there's a pretty good chance that at least one young humpback's songs will be dedicated to a man named Peter Brown.

The Queensland native and his wife were out enjoying a pleasant day of sailing off the coast of Brisbane, Australia when they spotted a young humpback whale that had become entangled in a shark net, so they alerted the authorities. As the minutes passed, however, it became clear that the animal was on the verge of death as it struggled to keep its blowhole above water.

So, in classic heroic style, the brave 67-year-old took matters into his own hands -- single-handedly freeing the whale with nothing more than a bit of true grit and a kitchen knife. Shades of Crocodile Dundee! The men down under seem to take matters into their own hands without hesitation.

"This whale was really wheezing and wasn't able to keep his breathing hole above the water. Something had to be done immediately - we couldn't wait for the cavalry to turn up," Brown tells the Brisbane Times.

At first, Brown rowed out to the 40-foot long whale on a dingy and attempted to cut the net from there. When that proved insufficient to free the animal, the intrepid whale-rescuer then strapped on some goggles and fins, diving into the water off North Stradbroke Island with knife in hand (or I prefer to think, he jumped in Tarzan style with the knife clenched between his teeth) in order to finish the job.

"It was quite an eery feeling touching the flesh of a huge, great big 40-foot whale ... but I felt totally unthreatened by the whale," Brown told reporters. "Eventually it seemed to swim away from all the ropes and the buoys that were tangled with it. And very slowly, and in a very groggy fashion, it swam away."

"And then another little motor boat came up ... and followed [the whale] out to make sure it was OK. Then he came back to us holding his thumbs up and that was the message saying 'mission accomplished'.

"We were quite delighted and we headed on our way."

Shark control program manager Jeff Krause, from the Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, said the whale had breached and became entangled on a shark drum line.

While authorities say they can't condone Brown's act of mammalian solidarity, they had to admit that it was "a great result for the whale."

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