The Everglades has been described to this writer as “the Australia of America,” in that most of the things inhabiting it, including many of the plants, would like nothing more than to kill you. A rugged, muggy wilderness, mentions of the Everglades do not tend to also bring to mind whales, often thought of as docile giants of the sea. The combination, however, is much more common than one might initially believe; pods of Pilot whales are common in the waters near the Everglade forests. This combination has proved harmful, however; a pod of the whales found themselves about 20 miles off course of their typical stomping ground, and many have been beached and stranded as a result.
Pods of short-finned Pilot whales tend to consist of about twenty five to thirty mammals, but the pod that has found itself in the thick of this trouble has nearly four dozen members in it, not including the ten whales that beached themselves and have been confirmed dead. The unlucky pod somehow stumbled into Highland Beach, the Western boundary of the Everglades and a particularly difficult area to navigate. Groups of rescuers spent hours on Wednesday working to shepherd the giants away from the shallow water and back towards the more suitable ocean.
These efforts have proved rather fruitless, however. Pilot whales are very social, tight-knit creatures, and will often beach or strand themselves if one of their pod mates has done so. Linda Friar, a spokesperson, says, “Pilot whales are common stranders. [Even after being rescued] they tend to rebeach themselves.” Friar went on to say that this particular pod was “not cooperating” with rescuer’s efforts to herd them back into the safety of deeper water. Rescuers face an extra set of troubles, however, since shallow water near the shore is not the only problem; even if the whales do turn back, they then face a maze of sand bars and shallow patches that could ensnare them even further.
Rescue efforts were called off on Wednesday evening, and are expected to continue as needed on Thursday morning.[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.]