Big Miracle True Story Photos – NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Biologist Dave Whitrow (center) examines one of three gray whales stranded in sea ice off Barrow, Alaska. NOAA
Nearly 25 years ago, world attention was focused on three gray whales stranded by sea ice off the coast of Alaska and efforts to free them.
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Dave Whitrow, a marine mammal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was called in to help with the rescue, which had to contend with freezing temperatures, constant freezing ice, and the coordination of various teams who wanted to help. This story became the plot of the recently released film “Big Miracle”.
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Breaking Sea Ice Three juvenile gray whales were trapped in sea ice off the coast of Barrow, Alaska in October 1988 after staying too long in their feeding grounds.
Gray whales make their annual migration from feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to the Mexican lagoon of Baja California, an epic journey spanning 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers). But time is of the essence, and the whales usually leave before the sea ice has time to trap them near coastal waters.
Rescue missions should focus not only on releasing the whales and returning them to the open ocean, but also on drilling holes in the sea ice so that the whales can breathe.
Most of the holes were made by local Inupiat hunters, greatly aided by their knowledge of the terrain and ice, Whitrow says.
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Companies that saw the story on the news donated ice-cutting saws and generators to provide electricity and lighting, Whitrow said.
However, the temperature was so low that breathing holes stuck in the ice continued to freeze. A water pump company supplies pumps that circulate water and prevent it from freezing. And, as Whitrow explains, the pump has other unexpected effects:
“All this time we planned to use the sounds of whale mating to lure whales from one hole to another. By chance, we discovered that the sound of the pump attracted whales. The pump allowed us to get the whales to breathe properly. new. hole in the front.
Operation Breakthrough On the other side of the frozen ice, Soviet icebreakers cut a mile-long channel through the ice to facilitate the passage of whales. However, care should be taken not to allow icebreakers to get too close to the whales, Whitrow said.
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He added that the event marked an unprecedented level of cooperation: “It was at the height of the Cold War. Collaboration between the United States and the Soviet Union on any issue was practically unheard of, especially when it was made public.”
Unfortunately, one of the three whales did not survive the rescue attempt, but the other two were safely delivered to the channel.
“After release, the whales are still going through a difficult journey through the mixed ice left by the icebreakers, but we are getting them to the best place to get back on their migration route, and even the weather is favorable for them,” Whitrow said.
What actually happened to the two remaining whales is unknown, as scientists changed plans to place satellite trackers on the creatures after one whale died so as not to undue stress on the other two.
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“However, when we started taking the whales to freedom, I couldn’t help but think that they knew something was going on. They seemed to understand that we were there to help them,” he said.
Whitrow, who has been involved in many other whale rescue operations, said he plans to watch the recently released Big Wonder movie. Sorry, we couldn’t find this page! The page may disappear… Use the search below and try your luck again.
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The Big Wonder movie and what I saw in real life, part 2: meeting Malik, Roy Ahmaogak, Price Brower and the gray whale itself; first physical contact
The film The Great Miracle opens with Malik and his young grandson Nathan in an umiak (leather boat) with their crew rowing towards the Greenland ridge. Later in the film, Nathan makes a comment to his Aap Malik, explaining that Malik does not use or believe in using motor boats for whaling.
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And now I’ll introduce you to the real Malik in a picture I took about a week before Roy Ahmaogak found three beached gray whales. This is Malik, standing in front of the boat, wearing a baseball cap on his head, his beak upturned as always. The waving flags were the pennants of the Patkotak Barrow team led by Simeon. With Malik as kicker, they had just harvested a boar and were due to land on the outskirts of Barrow in a few hours.
In real life, Malik, like Inupiat hunters, is adaptable and practical when it comes to hunting. In the spring, coastal Barrow in the Chukchi Sea is covered by two ice shelves—grounded coastal ice that typically extends four to seven miles from shore—and polar pack ice that constantly drifts, floats, and rotates around the North Pole.
Lead, sometimes very narrow, sometimes too wide to be seen, develops between the coastal ice and the polar member. Bowhead smut migrating through this lead system to summer feeding grounds in the eastern Beaufort Sea can appear anywhere across the lead width, but often they move very close to the edge of coastal ice.
Then the most practical and reasonable thing would be to set up camp on the ice edge with a calm umiak, and when the Greenland swims close, put it on the water, row to the whale and harpoon it. If it’s not an instant kill and the whale is swimming, a motorboat will be launched to chase it.
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Autumn hunting is a completely different matter. Although many ice floes and ice floes can float in the ocean, most of them are usually open. Under such conditions, a motorboat is more practical and effective than an umiak. Therefore, being practical, businesslike, intelligent people, the hunters abandoned skin boats and set sail on motor boats – as Malik and the Patkotak team do today.
As you can see, there are quite a lot of floating ice near the Chukchi near the coast – more than usual in early October. This initial formation will continue until ice conditions are sufficient to trap three juvenile gray whales.
In addition to the Patkotak crew, the ABC crew, led by Arnold Brouwer Sr., an elder who will also play a major role in saving gray whales, landed a bowhead whale that same evening.
In the spring, people use labor to transport the whales to the ice, but in the fall, when the whales are washed ashore on the outskirts of the village, it is practical and logical to use a large D-9 cat to tow. whales come out of the water, that’s what they do, and that’s what they do.
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Despite this, the hard, drudgery work of butchering, butchering, cooking and storing whales will remain physically demanding and labor intensive. The work went on all night, the next day, and beyond.
After Patkotak and Brower’s whales were taken care of and the community was fed, Malik returned to the Chukchi in a motorized aluminum boat to provide cover for Savik’s crew, led by Lawrence Ahmaogak-Savik. Savik stays
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