Modern Robin Hood Frees Endangered Whale by Cutting Rope with Crossbow

by Michael Graham Richard
05. 5.10

noaa whale saved crossbow rope photo

"Pass me that crossbow..."

Who said protecting marine life was boring? A team with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies used an arrow with 4 razor blades and a crossbow to free a Right Whale (classified as "endangered" on the IUCN's Red List) from a rope that ensnared its upper jaw and could potentially kill it by cutting into its flesh over time and causing infection. These thrilling heroics are even more impressive since Right Whales are known as a species that is very evasive and won't let humans approach it.

modern crossbow photo
A modern crossbow, probably similar to the one used by Scott Landry to free the whale

Right Whales can grow up to 18 m (59 ft) long and weigh up to 100 short tons (91 t), significantly larger than humpbacks or grays, but smaller than blue whales. That particular whale was nicknamed "Wart", and the PCCS team needed a special permit to bring their boat close enough to try to cut the rope. They were about 40 feet away when:

When Wart finally surfaced to take a breath, [Scott Landry, director of the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team] knew he had just one second before she dove back underwater. He also had just one try.

"Truth be told, it was very difficult,'' Landry said. "It all happened very quickly.''

Landry shot the arrow. It zipped through the air, and one of the blades cut straight through the rope wrapping around the whale's jaw.

Wart was not touched and did not seem to realize anything had happened, Landry said. But when she came back up from her next dive, she began opening and closing her mouth.

"She definitely noticed something had changed,'' Landry said. "She had already begun to work the rest of the entanglement out on her own.''

right whale with calf photo

Mission accomplished!

At about 2 PM on May 4th, an aerial surveillance team spotted a Right Whale that they believed was Wart, and they didn't see a rope.

Can someone give Scott Landry a medal please?

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Replies to This Discussion

I'll give Scott Landry a medal, a home-cooked meal and adopt him into my family! THANK YOU, SCOTT!
Wonderful shot! Even if the arrow had hit the whale, and even embedded into it, compared to the rope, the arrow would be like a pin prick to a huge animal like that. The best thing about this, is that it may herald a new way of safely disentangling these critters that is less traumatic and more effective. Maybe they should design an arrow that is made to stick into the whale, cut away any ropes or nets, carry some antibiotics and medicines, and then corrode away and release in a few weeks, and heal completely. Perhaps it could also have data gathering capabilities, and could gather, save and preserved a tissue sample for DNA, to be picked up later.
Just when I was beginning think humans really suck Scott has to deflate my view.


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