Loud cheers and sirens sounded as a small pod of white-beaked dolphins swam free this afternoon after days trapped by pack ice in the harbour at Heart's Delight.
It is an amazing story of a community coming together supporting and helping out the Department of Fisheries and Ocean officers to make the rescue effort possible.
DFO officers along with Wayne Ledwell of the Whale Release and Strandings Group and a number of local residents had stayed up all night at the harbour in case the dolphins would be forced to beach themselves.
The local fire department and other residents stood ready to wade in and try to capture the dolphins if the ice forced them to the shoreline.
Today when the wind moved the ice further in the harbour it confined the dolphins to a small open and shallow area. At the same time the ice loosened up.
A plan was devised to use a DFO boat and an local fishing boat to move ice toward the wharf break where two excavators from a local company both pushed the ice around the wharf and lifted it over to where the current carried it away.
The six or seven dolphins seemed to become stressed as the ice closed in further.
DFO officers, Ledwell and local residents began using posts, wood and even a grapnel on a line to move ice and mooring ropes out of the way.
Eventually a path was opened and bystanders starting calling words of encouragement as the dolphins made their way through the loosened ice to open water.
Loud cheers and sirens sounded in Heart’s Delight Thursday afternoon as a group of six or seven white/beaked dolphins, trapped by ice in the harbour for days, finally swam to freedom.
Efforts to free the dolphins have been ongoing for days, with onlookers worried sea ice would continue to press. Some feared the dolphins would not survive.
On Thursday the dolphins were in a more confined, shallow area in the inner harbour as DFO, the whale strandings group, local residents, the local fire department, and a local excavating company worked to clear enough ice away to open an escape route for the mammals.
It was very cold work, but all those involved took the chance to warm up at the firehall where coffee, sandwiches and other food were available.
The community has embraced this challenge to save the dolphins.
The good news Thursday was that the ice has loosened up allowing DFO and local residents in small boats — with the aid of equipment on the wharf — to move small pans of ice trying to make an escape route for the dolphins.
Finally, around 2 p.m. cheers erupted as the swam out of the harbor and into open waters.