Whale steals the show in Marseille harbour

Whale flips tale in harbour as police and onlookers stand on quayside
The whale flips its tail in the Vieux-Port at Marseille as it lies on the slipway beside the Capitainerie

Rescue divers ease ‘disoriented’ mammal away from crowded quayside and back out to sea

Divers had to shepherd a 15metre whale back out to sea after it became stuck in the Vieux-Port de Marseille.

The fin whale, the second largest mammal in the world after the blue whale, was spotted in among the yachts and pleasure boats of the old port and a Police Nationale spokesman said it was a “first in the memory of Marseille police”.

Although police closed off the port, there was still plenty of space for locals to catch a glimpse of the so-called ‘greyhound of the sea’ as it flipped its tail in the water and blew out air.

The police spokesman said it “seemed disoriented” and it eventually rested on the slipway beside the Capitainerie.

Police played up to a local legend in the Mediterranean port, exclaiming “Grosse sardine!!!!” in reference to the ship Sardine that hit rocks and blocked the entrance to the port in 1780.

The phrase "C'est la sardine qui a bouché le port de Marseille" has become a joke ever since giving Marseille residents the same reputation as Texans for exaggerating everything.

Video – France Bleu Provence

Rescue services with pompier divers eased the whale away from the quayside and, using a high-pressure fire hose, got it pointed in the direction of the harbour entrance and the ‘grande large’ and it left after being in the Vieux-Port for about an hour.

Last week the France Bleu Provence radio station reported that two whales had been spotted at the entrance to the main Marseille port and about dozen dolphins have washed up on beaches from Hérault to Var and Alpes-Maritimes.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises are quite common in the Mediterranean and the 87,500km2 Pelagos marine mammal sanctuary has been created between France, Monaco and Italy to protect them. It is thought to have about 1,000 fin whales in its deep waters.

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