Residents of the small Canadian town of Inukjuak, Quebec are responding to the plight of eleven killer whales trapped under the ice in Hudson Bay.
Hunters discovered the whales on Tuesday morning, notifying officials in Inukjuak of the Orca's predicament in hopes they could be rescued. Officials went to investigate the situation and Petah Inukpuk, mayor of Inukjuak, confirmed that there were 11 whales trapped in an ice opening measuring approximately 30 feet by 30 feet. The opening is at least 10 km (6 miles) from open water. According to Inukpuk, there are 2 large whales and nine smaller whales who are believed to be part of a family pod. Inukpuk and others in the town immediately put out an alert and began meeting to try and figure out how to rescue the whales.
On Wednesday, Digital Journal reported that as word of the whales spread, activists began using social media to help garner assistance for the whales, as well as urging the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to respond.
According to a Guardian report, DFO spokesman, Frank Stanek, announced that a team of specialists are being sent to the area to consult with Inukjuak officials to determine what the best course of action would be. DFO has also stated that icebreaker ships are currently being used in the Saint Lawrence River to free three commercial ships that have gotten stuck. Therefore, the ships cannot be used to clear a path for the whales.
Inukpuk told CNN that the residents of the town are doing all they can to assist the whales, saying:
"We have decided to give aid as much as possible so that those killer whales have a better chance of surviving. The local people will be taking out the blocks of ice around the whales (on Thursday). They will also be cutting the ice into blocks to enlarge the water."Kasco Marine, a Wisconsin company that specializes in pond aerators, floating decorative fountains and de-icing equipment, has also responded to pleas for help. Digital Journal spoke with Sandy Ferrian, director of Kasco, to find out how the company is participating in the rescue efforts.
Digital Journal: Has Kasco Marine assisted with such rescue operations in the past?
Sandy Ferrian: Yes, we have assisted in a whale rescue. In 1988 Kasco sent Greg Ferrian and Rick Skluzacek to Barrow, Alaska to assist with the rescue of 3 gray whales trapped in the ice.
Digital Journal: What type of equipment can you provide to assist in the rescue operation and is it in route to Inukjuak?
Sandy Ferrian: We are still gathering information and poising ourselves to react and assist in any way we can and all of our resources are dedicated at the moment.
At 9:18 a.m. CST, Digital Journal spoke with Mayor Inukpuk by phone at the Command center set up in Inukjuak's town hall. This is the update that he provided:
Digital Journal: There have been reports that there are 11 whales trapped. Is that number correct and what is the condition of the whales?
Mayor Inukpuk: No, the number of whales have changed. There are no longer any whales trapped by the ice.
Digital Journal: Are the whales deceased or have they been removed from the area?
Mayor Inukpuk: No, they are not dead, they have left the area.
Digital Journal: Where they rescued by volunteers and taken to another location?
Mayor Inukpuk: No. We sent a scout team to the location of the whales following a town meeting last night. The team arrived at the location just before daylight. They observed a shifting of the ice due to a change in the current. The hole opened up and the whales were able to swim to safety on their own.
Digital Journal: So the whales are now in open water.
Mayor Inukpuk: Yes, they have left the small area where they had been trapped and are now in an open water location. It is now up to them to find their way back to the ocean.
Digital Journal: So there was no need for volunteers to begin the process of cutting through the ice to make the hole larger?
Mayor Inukpuk: No, the current created the opening and the whales were able to swim out on their own.
The plight of the trapped whales have been source of concern throughout the world, thanks mainly to the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. An outpouring of support and offers for assistance flooded the Kasco Marine Facebook page. Twitter was buzzing with people concerned about the whales. Thankfully, according to Mayor Inukpuk, Mother Nature was able to provide the most assistance, allowing these beautiful creatures to find freedom.