On 30th May, 2009 Ian Klopper, NSRI Kommetjie station commander said: “At 07h32 NSRI Kommetjie were activated following eye-witness reports of two whales found beached and alive at Long Beach, Kommetjie.
Marine and Coastal Management were alerted while our NSRI volunteers responded to the scene to investigate.
On arrival on-scene our NSRI volunteers were met by approximately 7 False Killer Whales already beached and a large group of False Killer Whales in the process of beaching along Long Beach, Kommetjie.
NSRI volunteers from NSRI stations at Kommetjie, Simonstown, Table Bay, Strandfontein, Bakoven and Gordons Bay responded to the scene. The SA Police Services, Marine and Coastal Management, the Metro Ambulance and Rescue Services, Disaster Management, Law Enforcement, CMR (Cape Medical Response), EMT (Emergency Medical Training), the Dolphin Action and Protection Group, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, the Police Dive Unit, Navy Divers, Marine Scientists, Metro Police, Cape Town Traffic Services and Provincial Administration Traffic Services responded to assist.
By 09h30 a total of 55 whales were counted beached on Long Beach and all attempts were made to make the best use of the 11a.m. high tide to return the animals to the sea.
Private individuals volunteered front-end loaders following an appeal made by the NSRI on radio and television news broadcasts and the City of Cape Town provided a further 4 front-end loaders while members of the public streamed to the scene to assist.
Marine Scientists, directing the rescue effort to save the whales, instructed volunteer rescuers on how to move the animals through the surf in an effort to refloat them.
Front end loaders were used in an attempts to move whales, that were hard aground, back into the surf.
It was investigated the possibility of loading whales onto the back of 4×4 vehicles to be driven to Simonstown Naval Dockyard where Navy officials had volunteered the use of Navy boats to transport the whales out into the deep off False Bay but the effort proved too difficult due to the rapidly deteriorating health of the whales which by this stage were suffering obvious dehydration and breathing difficulties and distress.
Many of the whales that were ushered out to beyond the breakers by volunteers appeared to return to the beach, further along the beach, or were seen being washed up on rocks.It is unknown if any of the whales ushered out to sea survived.
Eventually the whales, including those that had re-beached themselves, spanned a 2 kilometer area from Long Beach towards Noordhoek Beach.
During the rescue effort a female volunteer member of the public suffered suspected fractured ribs after being pinned between a whale and rocks. A number of public volunteers had to be rescued by the NSRI after getting into difficulties in the rough surf while assisting to swim whales out to beyond the breakers.
Many public volunteers were rescued by other public volunteers after getting into distress in the waves.
Late this afternoon a decision was reached by Marine and Coastal Management Scientists and Whale Research Scientists to perform humane euthanasia on those animals whose health had deteriorated considerably.
Approximately 35 whales were subject to humane euthanasia performed by the Scientists while NSRI volunteers, Police officers and Law Enforcement officers monitored public safety.
The most humane way to perform euthanasia on whales is to shoot them through the brain and this was successfully performed on those whales suffering on the beach. We wish to stress emphatically that the most humnane effort was employed to prevent further suffering of these animals.
At least 10 whales died naturally, during the course of the day, on the beach, and we suspect that some of the whales, returned to the sea, may have already been in too an advanced stage of health deterioration to survive and some of these whales, we believe, were washed up against rocks or remain in the surf line.
The NSRI and officials wish to thank the massive support from the public and businesses during this tragic event. Calls came in from all over South Africa from people willing to get to Kommetjie to help but due to the early massive support we had already received we appealed to people to rather stay away in order to avert over crowding.
We are urging people who were on the scene today and who may be traumatized by the events of today to seek trauma counseling and support and we express our sincerest thanks to everyone who was on the scene trying to help, they were all positively involved in a massive humanitarian effort to save these whales and they deserve commendation.
Despite many theories on why marine animals beach it has not been determined what caused these whales to beach today.”
We are urging surfers and bathers to exercise extreme caution in and around Kommetjie and neighbouring beaches due to possible increased shark activity.
Shark researcher Alison Kock confirmed that sharks may be attracted by the chum slicks and by whale carcasses possibly still floating in the area which may attract feeding sharks.
Alison said that there is strong data supporting increased shark activity to an area where there are Cetacean strandings.
The onshore wind may prevent this but caution and vigilance should be exercised.
Essentially Long Beach has been closed to the public by the authorities for at least the next few days but we are strongly urging bathers and surfers to exercise caution if entering the water at Kommetjie or at neighbouring beaches.
NSRI Kommetjie have launched our rescue craft at 11h00 today to attempt to recover a whale carcass from rocks at Kommetjie Lighthouse.
We will attempt to tow the carcass to Kommetjie’s Long Beach for removal by the City of Cape Town officials.
The recovery of whale carcasses continue on the beach today and at least another 3 carcasses washed ashore during the night.