A MINKE whale has made its way back out to sea after washing up on a beach in Shetland thanks to the efforts of the community in Levenwick.

Around 7am on Wednesday morning, Karen Hall, a marine mammal adviser for NatureScot based in the area, received a call about a whale having washed up on the beach. 

Hall is also part of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme which aims to investigate cases of stranded or washed-up marine animals across Scotland

Speaking to The National, she said: “I started gathering reinforcements and initially we knew we had to keep it cool with damp towels and things but luckily in Shetland it’s been pretty cold so overheating was not a problem. 

“We started arranging with the council to get a digger to channel a way back to the sea for it. Everybody was getting in the water regardless of what they were wearing or how cold it was.

HeraldScotland: Tarpaulin was used to help guide the whale back to seaTarpaulin was used to help guide the whale back to sea

“In the end though, it was a gargantuan effort because while we were waiting we used some tarpaulin to help get it back into the water.”

Alongside NatureScot, tourists and locals, Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary was also involved in the rescue.

Despite being able to get the animal back out to sea however, it still struggled to find its way home. 

Pete Bevington, who works with the sanctuary, said: “The whale kind of zigzagged around and then it got stranded again but this time it was on a rocky ledge about 20 yards out to sea so everybody waited and watched."

The minke whale initially wanted to try and come back to shore when it first got back in the water owing to what Hall described as “land sickness”.

This is effectively the equivalent of sea sickness in people as it takes time for the animal to get accustomed to being back in the water.

Around midday, it dived and made its way back out to sea where drone operators found it reuniting with a much larger whale, believed to be its mother.

Bevington said they can’t be 100% sure if that is the case but “we just need to keep our fingers crossed and hopefully it’s just gone back out”.

He added that events like this happen “not regularly but occasionally”, noting that two similar rescues have taken place in the last five years. 

Hall praised the way the community and tourists came together to help the struggling animal. 

She said: “This is the sort of thing that happens all the time in Shetland. You put a call out and the community and people holidaying asked to come down and help.

“It was people who were all willing to get into the water up to their knees when it’s cold, they didn’t have to do that.

“People were coming down with towels and some locals brought down cups of teas and sandwiches. 

HeraldScotland: It is believed the animal had got separated from its motherIt is believed the animal had got separated from its mother

“It was really nice to see everybody pull together because everybody wanted the same conclusion because often with these kind of things, the ending is not good.”

Earlier this year, a sperm whale was stranded in a narrow bay in the same area for around 11 days. 

Bevington agreed with Hall that it was great to see everyone helping. He said: “Shetland is fantastic for that. When something like this happens, people in the community from all walks of life rally together. 

“People are good at working together in a crisis so it’s wonderful to see it happening again, especially when we were out so early in the morning.”