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An Incredible Whale of a Rescue Story

Guille Coppel
January 5, 2012

On December the 29th 2011, three friends and us went out fishing in four different boats: Jaime Barragan in his boat “Poca Madre” with his son Jaimillo and a friend of him Nahum. Humberto Mendoza in his panga “Freedom” with his wife Jani and her 8 year old nephew, Emiliano. Mario Mucharraz by himself in his boat “Makaira” and Martel and I in our boat “Vida Loca”.

Around midday Humberto reported in the radio that he had found a humpback whale wrapped in a fishing net swimming with a lot of difficulty and desperate to free herself.






Humberto reported this fact to the Marina Armada de Mexico in San Blas and immediately they send a patrol boat with personal to organize the rescue. All the other boats went also where Humberto was. When we got there this is what we found: the whale was swimming with the net all wrapped around her body, and next to her, swimming free and always by her side, her mate, who eventually would go under, pushing her up to help her breath.


The Patrol of the Marina Armada de Mexico arrived around 1:30p.m. And the Capitan asked us to approach them, then Martel, Jani and Emiliano went into the Patrol Boat for safety, and four marines and a biologist got into two of our boats because it would be easier to handle the maneuvers.

Then the rescue started in total improvisation, not this marines or us have been in a similar situation before.




I had a carabineer in my boat and we decided to tie it up to the tip of the 50 meters rope that the Patrol had. Then with lot of caution (in the beginning, not so much after a while) we got close to the whale and hooked up the carabineer to the net wrapped in the whale. After that, we passed the other tip of the rope to the patrol boat, so they could tie it up to the bow of the patrol boat and pull it back. With this tension the net started to brake getting little by lillte some net off the back of the whale. As soon as the whale felt more free, she went under the water and we had to wait till it came up to breath.



We did this for five hours (until the sunset) also cutting the net with knifes. With this procedure we took off as much from the whale as we could. Maybe 70% of the net. We really try our best under the circumstances, but the net wrapped on her tail was two or three meters under the surface of the water making it us impossible to reach it. It was so heavy, that the whale almost couldn’t bring it up, so it was definitely out of our reach.

Being so close for so long to a 40 tons animal is something difficult to describe, and in one point it was fun, because we were no more than one meter (3 feet) from the huge holes that they have up above to breath (nose maybe????) and every time she breath, we ended up soaking wet. Was with no doubts the shower with more water pressure that I have ever had.


Finally without sun we got ready to come back. We were not very happy, we knew she still had net on her tale, but it was impossible to keep on helping her. We ran back 18 miles tired and in total darkness, our only light of reference was the bow light on the Poca Madre boat. At home (Tropico Trailer Park) our friends Curtis was ready to pull us out with his truck, and Christina together with Maquis Michel (Jaime’s wife), his daughter Ana Pau, and a friend of her Sofi, were waiting for us with light signals to help us to get the boats into the trailers, and some delicious hamburgers they made for us.


In the last picture (shown above) you can see what we were able to get off from her back, and something that I will never forget is the solidarity of her mate. Never, not for a second, left her alone.

Next day we went out fishing again, and found two smaller boats of the Marina Armada de Mexico, now with scuba divers and lots of marines that were looking for the whale. I just found out two days ago that they did find it and free it completely from the net, and is swimming free. Mario Mucharraz got this information from his brother who is an Admiral in the Marina Armada de Mexico.

It was an unforgettable experience to all of us that participate in it.

I’m attaching some pictures taken by Jani and Mario (they are more or less, in sequence with the story), and maybe one of this days we will get the video that the Biology of the Marina Armada de Mexico took.

Un saludo a todos.
Guille Coppel