A sighting of a different kind

by firmm Team

Text: Brigitte, Photos: firmm

The trip on the 24th of October started like many others. Little wind, clear visibility, and some clouds. After half an hour the first sighting: about 20 Bottlenose Dolphins with two calves. They behaved in a neutral way and were easy to observe for some time. After looking at them for a while, we went on to look for another species of marine mammals.

What our captain Dani saw through the binoculars on the Moroccan side of the Strait of Gibraltar, however, was something quite different. Shortly before noon, we spotted a small orange raft with two refugees. We approached and saw that the two were waving their arms vigorously.
One of their oars was already broken. The peculiar thing was that many Pilot Whales were swimming around them. There were two groups, one with about six animals and another with eight. It was somehow as if they did not want to leave the boat alone.
The men seemed rather afraid of them. They had probably never seen marine mammals before and from their perspective in the small boat, the six-metre-long black whales must have certainly looked impressive.

The coastguard arrives.

Our captain Antonio explained to me that we had already notified the coast guard and it was our obligation to wait until they arrived. Otherwise, with the Levante already approaching, the men would probably quickly drift off towards the Atlantic. By law, we were not allowed to take them on board, also for the protection of our passengers, because there was no way of knowing whether they would bring in diseases. However, we had to make sure that they did not get into immediate distress at sea.
The Pilot Whales now also came curiously to our boat. I stood in the bow and had the whales right beneath me. One turned to the side, and I could look into his eye. A moving moment. The animals stayed the whole time until the coast guard arrived. The men dressed in protective suits finally took the two fugitives on board. They seemed very relieved, kept waving at us and thanking us. It must have been equally impressive and frightening for them how the Pilot Whales kept approaching their boat.

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