The whale story continues: becoming marine mammal medic in Kaikoura

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4 months ago my life was changed forever.

Though hiking on a extremely remote element of Stewart Island, I stumbled upon a scene of horror at sunset, a number of pods of 150 pilot whales beaching themselves in the shallow surf. Far from assistance, we did all that we could, but they in the end all died.

Their cries haunt my dreams and nonetheless wake me up at evening. I have nightmares about their bodies left to the sands on that beach, all alone.

How could I not assistance them? Why couldn’t I save them?

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

Us humans have performed so a great deal harm to our oceans but also have developed so several not possible points and constructed so several extraordinary machines.

We’ve sent males to the moon and taken photographs of a black hole for the initially time. We have magical underwater world-wide-web cables all about the globe. How could we not save some whales? How could I not even get in touch with for assistance?

We really should have been in a position to save them.

It tends to make me SO FUCKING MAD that we only prioritize science for profit. Why do not we dedicate the billions of dollars that go into military funding like underwater naval mock battles or seismic blasting in our oceans alternatively of attempting to figure out why whales maintain beaching themselves and how we can avoid it?

WE Nonetheless Do not HAVE THE ANSWERS. ok, all caps, I’m pissed. Calm down, Liz.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

But seriously, appear at these 4 photographs I just shared above. That was hell. Taking these photographs was hell and killed element of my soul. The only cause I even took a handful of photos of the stranding was for the reason that I knew deep down that this would turn out to be element of my story, and I would have to have them down the road.

Component of me died that day on the beach with these whales, and brought on a wound so deep I’m only beginning to recover from it.

I never ever want to encounter that worry, helplessness, anger and grief once more. The ghosts of 150 lovely pilot whales stroll with me daily: mothers, babies, brothers, sisters, fathers, all gone but not forgotten, at least to me.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

My encounter with the whales was a catalyst for a enormous breakdown for me, in which all my problems with manage and getting in a position to deal with scenarios exploded, rendering me practically useless for months.

I spiraled into a deep depression, pushing every person away from me, wallowing and unable to get the most standard tasks performed. I stopped sleeping once more and became the poster youngster for a millennial burnout.

My exhaustion consumed me. I realized I couldn’t do it all, and I had to ask for assistance when I necessary it, which I did.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

So what can I do now? What does that have to do with whales, Liz?

Final weekend I took the initially step to becoming stronger by becoming a marine mammal medic in Kaikoura with Project Jonah, a New Zealand charity that is been saving whales considering that 1974. Alongside the Department of Conservation (DOC), they are devoted to defending marine mammals right here in New Zealand.

Half of the world’s whales and dolphins species are discovered in New Zealand, and there is a higher price of strandings right here, averaging more than 300 per year. They have to have our assistance.

New Zealand is a hotspot for whale strandings and has a handful of locations exactly where whales frequently strand, like on Stewart Island exactly where I was and famously on Farewell Spit.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

Soon after my encounter with the whales on Stewart Island, it was Project Jonah, DOC, and even the New Zealand police (!!) who looked immediately after me, calling me and checking in on me when I was feeling blue. The help I received more than these hard handful of weeks as I started to come to terms with my encounter.

When I started to really feel improved, I realized I had a challenging selection ahead of me: either ignore what I knowledgeable with the whales and bury these horrible memories and move on with my life, or embrace the discomfort and use it as foundation to make a modify in the globe.

I am not a single of these “airy-fairy” individuals who believes in fate or what ever *eye rolls* but honestly, I genuinely consider it was fate that place me on that beach with these whales. What are the possibilities a person was even there, let alone ME?!

Now I really really feel like it is my duty now to share what I went by means of and do my element to make positive that no a single is ever in my position once more.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

So I booked a flight to Christchurch, rented a car or truck, and drove up to Kaikoura for the weekend, exactly where I was in a position to attend a single of Project Jonah’s marine mammal medic courses. Yes, it is a issue.

With so several strandings taking place every single year, Project Jonah and DOC rely on educated volunteers (marine mammal medics) to assistance with the rescues and re-floating of stranded whales.

You commit the morning in the classroom studying about whales and dolphins and some of the causes why they strand, along with the rescue methods employed at a stranding. In the afternoon, you will pull on a wetsuit and hit the beach for the sensible element of the course, practicing what we’ve discovered on life size inflatable whales and dolphins (filled with water to make them life-weight also) as nicely as employing true rescue gear on them.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

By the finish of Project Jonah Marine Mammal Medic course you will be educated to:

  • Help in the rescue of stranded dolphins and whales
  • Act as a part model to untrained rescuers
  • Soon after the course you will be issued with a marine mammal medic card and added to our national database for future stranding get in touch with-outs.

Be positive to subscribe to Project Jonah’s newsletter so you can sign up for the subsequent course. I really think along with Project Jonah, that every person particular person who lives in New Zealand really should do this course and be improved ready for strandings.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

It was so tough to relive these memories but now I really feel a single step closer to not getting helpless and ignorant with strandings and I hope I can commence to do my element in saving and defending these wonderful creatures.

I realized that even though I did a lot of points incorrect when I stumbled across these whales on Stewart Island, like attempting to grab them by their tails, I also realized I did the suitable issue by sending my companion at the time off operating 20 kilometers to locate DOC rangers.

I’m nonetheless coming to terms with the truth that there was absolutely nothing anybody could have performed to save these whales I discovered, so several aspects had been not in their favor, largely due to the sheer remoteness and access difficulty of exactly where I discovered them, I really feel a lot additional safe in the understanding I took away from this course that I can be of assistance in future strandings.

Which leads me to my subsequent point – I have to have your assistance.

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

Though I’ve often loved whales and marine mammals (I imply, what’s not to enjoy? They are quite extraordinary!) I now really feel like whales are element of my story and I want to commit additional time with them, and hopefully not just at whale strandings as a volunteer. I want to commit time with them in the water, studying about them and studying them.

Please if you know anybody who operates with whales or dolphins or has encounter in this location, scientists, biologists, rangers, or just fellow whale lovers, please let me know.

I’m genuinely pondering about heading up to Tonga this winter to swim with the Humpback whales in the course of their migration, but please let me know of other possibilities, locations, books, motion pictures, something about whales exactly where I can additional my understanding. And please connect me with fellow whale individuals!

Thank you and ngā mihi.

Liz xx

Report whale or dolphin strandings to the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT or to Project Jonah 0800 four WHALE

Do you commit time at the ocean and enjoy whales and dolphins also? Is this one thing you’d be keen to study additional about? Share!

volunteer whale stranding new zealand

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