The stranded soon drew a crowd of curious onlookers. “I have never seen a whale at this beach for all the time I have lived here,” one Gambian said. Beautiful-Joy Fields, an American student on a study visit to The Gambia who joined 12 locals and tourists to push the whale back into the Atlantic Ocean, explained: “I didn’t plan on actually getting in the water, but we all felt bad for the whale and wanted to help it back in. After several hours, we were successfully saved it.”
It wasn’t clear what caused the whale to beach. Whales and dolphins are no stranger to West African waters but they hardly ever make an appearance to surface. According to afrol.com, in October 2014, fifteen African countries penned down signatures for greater protection of dolphins, small whales and manatees living in waters off West Africa or islands in mid-Atlantic Ocean, under a United Nations-backed treaty that aims to conserve wildlife and habitats.
The population of whales varies with each species. Whales are quite active in the water. They jump high out of the water and land back. They also thrust their tails out of the water and slap the water’s surface, which is believed to be a warning of danger nearby. Whales also communicate with each other using lyrical sounds. These sounds are extremely loud depending on the species and can be heard for many miles. Neither beach runners nor swimmers saw the whale coming. Some of the people who helped in the rescue efforts said the whale was injured but no evidence was found. Because of the whale’s environment they need to breathe air by coming to the water’s surface, whales are conscious breathers, meaning they decide when to breathe. All mammals sleep, including whales, but they cannot afford to fall into an unconscious state for too long, since they need to be conscious to break the surface in order to breathe, this could be one reason the whale surfaced unexpectedly.
By Jasmine Redo
Jasmine Redo is a student of Langston University currently on an internship at The Standard.