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Niue: Whale in a tangle with visiting yacht's mooring

By Sue Richards last modified Sep 25, 2012 03:19 PM

Published: 2012-09-10 11:45:00
Topics: Environment
Countries: Niue

There's never a dull moment on the small Pacific island of Niue, especially between July and October each year when Humpback whales arrive in Niue’s waters to calve and nurse their young.

Recently, a visiting Australian yacht had an extremely close encounter with one of these underwater visitors, while attached to one of the visiting mooring buoys.

The crew were all ashore at the time, when just on dark the yacht on the next mooring heard a loud bang and chain running out. They popped their heads up though the hatch to see the yacht next door being towed sideways - to then "twang" back as the whale became untangled from the mooring.

There then ensued a catalogue of disasters with the force of the whale breaking free: the furled foresail came adrift at its top anchor point and dropped over the side; two deck cleats for mooring lines pulled out of the deck; bolts sheared off; the anchor went overboard followed by all 200ft of anchor chain; the stainless steel anchor guide plate ripped off and one flange bent up at a 60 degree angle.

The deck guide rails and anchor cover plate were demolished. Needless to say, some of the bow fibreglass was damaged as well. Fortunately however there was no stay damage so the mast was still OK, but everything ended up overboard in one tangled mess, dropping down to mooring 3 - fortunately only 20 metres deep.

Niue Yacht Club's commodore Keith Vial reports, "All the yacht crews in the field at the time rallied to help and effected enough repairs so that the damaged yacht could sail away 8 days later, determined to finish their next few weeks of planned diving before heading back to Brisbane.

"The irony of the situation is that this was the first time since 1992 that a whale had been entangled. Whales are often there in the field, and we suspect a juvenile who was just too inquisitive got a brief encounter with a mooring line".

Received From: Steve McLay, 18 September, 2012 
Subject: Nuie - Whale entanglement

Your report of the damage after the whale entanglement reminded me that whilst moored at Nuie last year at early dawn a whale decided to interact with my catamaran Heatwave. For an hour the whale gently nudged the boat and stood on its tail looking at us closely before finally pushing on the mooring lines and pulling us forward. When released the lines spun  and got into an awful tangle that we had to dive on to release. Unforgettable.

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