Belfast Telegraph

Hero helps stranded whale off Northern Ireland beach

John coaxes distressed animal back out to sea

John Lowry helping the whale make its way to safety
John Lowry helping the whale make its way to safety
John Lowry helping the whale make its way to safety
John Lowry helping the whale make its way to safety
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

This is the incredible moment a Northern Ireland man single-handedly coaxed a beached whale out to sea.

The dramatic scenes unfolded near the harbour in Newcastle, Co Down, yesterday afternoon, much to the amazement of onlookers.

A large crowd had gathered and two men were in the process of wading out after the minke whale beached on the shore.

However, passer-by John Lowry noticed the crowds and luckily had a dry suit in his car. He then sprung into action.

He managed to coax the whale off the sandbank it was stuck on, and it then was able to make its way to deeper water.

John told the Belfast Telegraph: "I pulled over to take a closer look and spotted a whale which was in distress due to being trapped in shallow water.

"I am a commercial diver and by chance I had my dry suit in my van. I spoke with some of the people on the beach who told me that the whale had been trapped for some time, and I could see that it was losing a lot of blood."

With a maritime background, this was not the first time John had conducted such a rescue.

Some years ago he was involved in saving a beached whale while he was a station officer at South Down Coastguard. "I know it's a very dangerous thing but if you know what you're doing you can limit the risk," he said.

"I was confident that I could use my skills and experience to help in this situation.

"I asked a member of the public to phone the Coastguard and request that they contact the (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs') Marine Division to inform them.

"Once in the water with this beautiful mammal, which was approximately 7m long, I cautiously approached the head of the whale to establish its condition and gauge the depth of water.

"I used all my strength to keep pushing its head out to sea to steer it in the right direction.

"A lot of finning by the whale was helped by the incoming tide, and some persuasion eventually resulted in it managing to reach deeper water and swim out to sea.

"It was very satisfying to see the whale swim away to safety. I later received a phone call from my friend Joe Breen in Marine Division who was delighted to hear that there was a good outcome for the minke whale."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph