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Humpback whale stuck in Brittany estuary finds way back to sea

Young humpback surfs back to sea on outgoing tide from Saint-Malo estuary after getting trapped by power station dam

Humpback mother and calf Pic: Imagine Earth Photography / Shutterstock

The humpback whale that had been trapped since last Thursday (February 9) in the Rance estuary, near Saint-Malo, has found its way back to sea after managing to cross the dam separating the river from the English Channel, reports France TV Info.

A seven-metre long calf made an unscheduled stopover in Brittany after managing to swim through the tidal dam of a power station and spent 26 hours seemingly playing hide-and-seek in the Rance estuary with those seeking to escort it back to deeper waters. 

Read more: Brittany: humpback whale calf stranded in estuary near Saint-Malo

"The animal travelled many kilometres (on Friday) and is not in great shape," said Gaël Gautier, director of the marine environment and whale specialists, Al Lark. He said this was clear from the whale’s size and geographical position.

Soon crowds flocked to see the creature, which came up to the surface to breathe every five minutes. "It was wonderful because I have never seen one before," confided a young local boy, whose mum had allowed him to skip school for the occasion. “You don’t get many whales in Saint-Malo.”

As soon as the cetacean appeared, the valves of the tidal plant were opened to allow it to leave, and the production of electricity was stopped. The whale finally left on Friday’s outgoing tide and is thought to be heading towards the Balearic Islands.

The rescue was made possible by opening the sluice gates of the dam to maximum at high tide to allow a current between the river and the sea. "All energy production was stopped for several hours to ensure the operation," added Mr Gauthier. The whale was thus able to pass through the lock and return to the sea.

"We were able to track it until the north of Cézembre Island in the Bay of Saint-Malo and then it completely disappeared from our radar," said Mr Gauthier. Significant resources were mobilised in the area, including the SDIS 35 fire department, the maritime police and the Pelagis network located in La Rochelle, which specialises in the observation of marine mammals and birds. "We must continue to monitor the situation."

Read also

Mystery of thousands of fish washed up on beaches in Brittany

Walrus spotted resting in Normandy port, 3,500km from home

Is it normal that whales are being beached along Brittany coastline?

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