Whales in Trinidad

In mid October there was a beaching of 24 whales in Manzanilla.  A call went out for cruisers to help.  We were not on the boat that morning to respond, but I have met and talked with others who were.  Below are two stories I have gotten permission to use.  One is written by a young lady named Dore.   When I met Dore she seemed very upset about the death of the whales and I asked her to write this story.   We talked about how it might help her deal with her sadness if she shared her story with others.  Dore is 9 years old and a liveaboard cruiser on the sailing vessel Cariblu.  The next story is written by Leslie from the sailing vessel Sole Fide.   Leslie and her husband John are from Colorado and sailing the Caribbean for two years.  Thanks to you both for allowing us to share this information with people back home.  Also thanks to the boats who donated pictures for us to use


By Dore Klein Culbert on the yacht "Cariblu"

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Wednesday morning brought excitement.  I was going to see whales for the first time.  A group was going from Coral Cove so I decided to help also.  When we got there they had returned 14 pilot whales to the sea and ten died.  They had us bucketing water over the dead whales so their organs would not bake because they had some Puerto Rican biologists flying down so they could take samples to find out why whales beach themselves.  They think the leader of the pod got sick and beached itself and the others followed.

A pod is a group of whales that has two to thousands of whales in it.  A pilot whale is in the dolphin family.  It is a small whale but a large dolphin.

Later that week six of the whales were buried in Nariva Swamp in a large pit.    Three were taken by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and one was given to the Mt. Hope Vet School.

Hopefully biologists will learn the cause of death and find a way to prevent the remaining pod from beaching.

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This is Dore pouring water on the whales.    This picture donated by Gwen on Tackless II Picture donated by Ruth on Divina


Saving Whales Manzanilla Beach, Trinidad 10/13/99 from Leslie on Sola Fide

This week's adventure began at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday when "Lady Charli" a long time resident cruiser hailed for HELP on her VHF radio. She told us the Trinis needed our help in pulling 24 beached whales off the east coast beach. She gave us 10 minutes to assemble outside our various marinas.  There we would hop on local taxi mini vans she had already dispatched.

Two hours later, we arrived at Manzanilla Beach located on the east or windward side of the island. We sadly found 10 pilot whales laying peacefully under the palm trees having blown their last blow hole. They were about 15 feet long and 1,000's of pounds each. They look like large dolphins with pitch black helmet round shaped heads with broad closed mouths and smallish fins.

Trinidad Army guards in fatigues stood in the bright sun with machine guns slung across their shoulders. They were friendly but formally on duty.  They staked out the beached whale's area and protected them from the curious crowds.  We were glad to hear that 14 whales had already been SAVED just one hour prior to our arriving. They had been pulled off the beach with ropes tied
to their tails and around heads and then dragged back safely into the deep sea by hand and local fish boats. One of the whales saved was a mom with pups. Local fishermen just an 1/8th mile offshore were still zooming around to fend off 4 other pods of whales which they SAVED by keeping them from coming into the shallow beach.

As foreign cruisers we were automatically the local entertainment. We paraded down the beach with our lily white faces in uniforms of shorts, sneakers and tees. We were in sharp contrast to the hundreds of friendly black and tan faces.

Having come to this beach with a mission to help, we grabbed buckets and filled them with sea water and began pouring the water over the 10 peacefully dead whales. This helped to protect them from harsh effects of the sun.

We soon melded into a colorful procession of black and tan and white humans honoring these beautiful dead sea creatures. (Africa, India,North American/Europe). It was like a religious ceremony, a sort of farewell to them. Splashing holy sea water over their beautiful long black bodies.

I noticed some small children walking in a sad daze. I later reflected/hoped maybe the kids got comfort watching the many colors of people together helping to protect the sweet looking whales laying dead on the sand. As adults of all colors, we benefited too by sharing our sweat in
compassion for these beautiful creatures from the sea.

Caribbean animal specialists were on hand to later perform autopsies to understand why they died on the shallow beach. Speculations: they got in a frenzy and were misguided to shallow water at a very high tide an when the tide suddenly went out to sea they got trapped on the beach or...maybe they heard a subsonic noise that frightened them off course onto the beach. No one knows for sure.

This was a wonderful adventure even though it was a bit depressing. It served as a good test run for us cruisers to respond to the Trini's call for help. We will be ready next time they call.

Well, as Diane a cruiser friend on "Spirit Borne" said on the ride to Manzanilla Beach, "I always wondered WHO In The WORLD actually SAVES The WHALES?" she smiled big answering her own question: "People who don't have jobs!" There's yet another perk of "retirement": YOU TOO ARE READY to SAVE the WHALES! Be ready for the call.

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