The Right Whale named METOMPKIN:
Her Story of Survival

USCG Station

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Chapter 5

BoatAfter attaching the VHF-radio transmitter to #1707 on January 15, she is then tracked on a daily basis. An experienced whale disentanglement team from the Center for Coastal Studies on Cape Cod is put on alert. They will wait for calmer seas to make another attempt to remove the gear. Unfortunately for more than a week the sea conditions are too rough for hands-on work with this entangled 35-ton whale. The wave heights make it dangerous to approach her closely in order to begin cutting the ropes that surround her.

If they are unable to free her, they plan to attach a satellite transmitter to the gear, in order to continue tracking where she swims.

Question - [Why change to a satellite tag?]

On January 17, #1707 is sighted further south, off Daytona Beach, Florida. Two days later, on January 19 she returns to the area where she was first tagged. After three more days, on January 22, she is located at a position 30 miles east of Savannah, still swimming north. (MAP) Bad sea conditions or not, it appears she is leaving the area. #1707 will be lost if she continues north and heads out to sea. The modified manatee transmitter cannot stand the pressure of deep, offshore dives and the batteries are not expected to last much longer.

January 23, 1996

The group of a dozen concerned scientists arrive at the US Coast Guard Station on Tybee Island, Georgia, with boats and gear in tow. Chief Wilson and his crew welcome the group and want to help. The whale that had temporarily outrun the working range of the research team. But when the tracking plane locates #1707 on January 23, she is swimming quickly in calm seas too far north for this Coast Guard station's work. She has left the Georgia Coast Guard district's range, and is spotted off Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Scientists then telephone the U.S. Coast Guard, Charleston Group. Lieutenant Lance Rocks understands the situation immediately and sets out to see what he can do to help. Now the whale is estimated to be 30 miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. The Coast Guard's resources, time involved, sea conditions, and safety concerns are discussed. At a distance of 30 miles away, a Coast Guard WOB (110-foot patrol boat) will be needed to carry the whale research team out to sea.

Lt. Lance Rocks

USCG Cutter As with any operation in the Coast Guard, this decision is passed up the chain of command all the way to the District Seven office in Miami. Florida. Based on the Coast Guard's commitment and mission to the protection of living marine resources, an immediate decision is made to assist the team. Within an hour the CGC (Coast Guard Cutter) METOMPKIN is recalled from fisheries patrol and returned to Charleston to pick up the three riders and their equipment.

This Coast Guard Cutter is a wonderful surprise!! The forecast calls for easterly winds of more than 20 knots. Sea conditions are dangerous. No smaller boat could get the scientists to where they need to be and lowered in an inflatable boat near the whale. The team is impressed with the Coast Guard's willingness to take such steps to help with the mission and grateful to Lt. Rocks to make this effort possible.

USCG Cutter

There are 49 similar "Cutters" in operation with the Coast Guard. Each 110 feet long, they can travel as fast as 26 knots (45 mph) and cover 3,300 miles without needing more fuel. Their most important jobs are law enforcement and search and rescue. All are equipped with advanced electronics and navigation equipment. A typical crew of a Cutter is 16 personnel - 2 Officers, 14 Enlisted.

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