I've seen dead whales before and have observed both killer and sperm whales up close predating on fish hauled up on fishing gear in the Gulf of Alaska, but never before have I seen an entangled whale. Despite my emotional turmoil over witnessing such a situation, I had the sense to be impressed by the consummate professionality of our Team Leader, Jess.
Calmly, patiently, and in great detail, she photographed the whale and described the various complicated aspects of the entanglement so that I could relay the information to our Ground Contact, Kelly, who then put the phone tree into motion. This phone tree refers to the various contacts from federal, state and non-profit agencies who decide the appropriate action plan for dealing with an entangled large whale.
In this case, the seas were too rough to attempt immediate disentanglement, or even to try attaching telemetry gear so that the whale could be tracked. But, at least, now all aerial surveys teams are on high alert, and thanks to Jess's awesome photo documentation (shown here), everyone has a good idea of what to expect . We are all hopeful that we'll re-sight this humpback soon so that the disentanglement crew can spring into action and help this magnificent animal!