Shepherds in the Westman Islands, south off Iceland, who specialize in chasing sheep during autumn round-ups, were called to the local harbor yesterday to help two confused bottlenose whales find their way to the ocean.
“That was our round-up,” marine biologist Páll Marvin Jónsson, who organized yesterday’s rescue operation in the Westman Islands, told Fréttabladid. The two whales had been trapped in the harbor for two days.
Jónsson said bottlenose whales mainly rely on sounds to navigate the ocean and the echo from the harbor in the Westman Islands probably confused them. “They were exhausted and would probably have died of hunger if we hadn’t showed them the way out.” Bottlenose whales feed primarily on squid.
Fifteen boats were used to chase the whales out of the harbor. Jónsson said the shepherds had made a lot of noise to make the animals understand that they should move. “They swam rather jerkily but [the rescue operation] didn’t take more than two and a half hours.”
Nearly 200 elementary school children were given a break from class to observe the whale-herding. “When we came ashore they applauded, so it was really fun,” Jónsson said.