"The saving of the whales at Crowdy Head is an important step forward in conservation. The pupils in our school were involved from the very beginning," said the school's teacher, Mr. Don Harrison.
When he first saw several whales on the beach on Monday morning, Mr Harrison rang the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to report the stranding. The class at this small one-teacher school then packed up and rushed to the shoreline. The children were so upset at the pitiful sight of the beached whales that they felt they had to do something to help. The NPWS advised that the best thing to do was to keep splashing the whales with seawater.
For three hours, the children worked in the bitter cold carrying buckets of seawater to keep the whales wet and prevent them from drying out. Other children sat with individual whales, stroking them and soothing them with their voices. By the late afternoon, many more whales had beached themselves and hundreds of volunteers had begun arriving at Crowdy Head. For the next two days, in freezing conditions, these kind people and many local residents worked tirelessly to try and save sixty-six whales that were struggling for life.
All through the long, cold night, wetsuit-clad volunteers cradled and comforted the bleeding and distressed whales in the quiet waters of the beach. It was decided to move about twenty from the surf beach away from the dead and dying members of the pod. With great effort, the survivors were lifted onto trucks, to be transported over sand dunes, and this saved their lives.
It was the whales' care for each other and gentle manner towards their rescuers that inspired the helpers not to give up, even though at times the situation seemed hopeless. Each time a whale was brought from the beach to the harbour, the joy of the whales already there was obvious. They would swim alongside the newcomer, helping to support it and encouraging it.
Three days later, four of the fittest whales were roped in slings to two fishing boats and towed out to sea. The rest of the pod followed. Five kilometres out, they found another pod migrating north. The rescued whales joined them, while from the heartlands the people who had worked with such dedication watched them go, with tears of joy and relief. This was Australia's most successful whale rescue; of the sixty-six stranded whales, 38 survived and finally swam free.
Mr. Harrison said that for the children, it was the most wonderful lesson they had ever had, not only in wildlife but in the way a community can work together in an emergency.
-Adapted from a true story-
Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. Old School. Best viewed in 1024 x 768 with Firefox 1.0 or IE 6.