Travel chaos, a lost whale: the summer starts here

The battle to return Marvin the minke to the open seas
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The Independent Online

Fraserburgh, a workaday fishing port on Scotland's windswept north-east coast, showed off its latest tourist attraction yesterday - Marvin the minke whale.

In scenes reminiscent of the Thames last year, when a bottlenose whale swam beside the Houses of Parliament, hundreds of holidaymakers and locals lined the Broch's shore to witness for themselves the plight of the leviathan which lost its way in the town's harbour.

Uppermost in rescuers' minds as they struggled to coax the young minke back to the open seas yesterday was that - despite a Herculean effort to lead the bottlenose to the safety of the Thames estuary on a barge - the London whale died.

The latest rescue has developed into a tense battle of wits between man and beast. Three attempts failed on Thursday to convince the five-metre mammal to leave the harbour, normally home to giant trawlers and scavenging seagulls. Hopes were now pinned on last night's bid to herd the cetacean into the North Sea on the ebb tide using a "wall of sound".

The technique involves rescuers in boats banging scaffolding poles suspended in the water. Marvin, however, has been having none of it.

Experts from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said another failure would force them to suspend rescue efforts for the weekend. But spokesman Tony Woodley had to defend the decision to try and shift the mammal at all in the face of criticism from other animal welfare groups.

"Some say we should leave it alone and it will be fine but we don't accept that. If it had swum into a deep sea loch that would be OK. But here it is on a busy working harbour where it has no available food source and hasn't eaten for 48 hours. It needs assistance," he said. Because it is so young, between six and seven months, it is feared it could still be dependent on its mother for survival.

But it is not a view shared by Richard Fairbairns, the founder of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, who urged rescuers to "back off". He said: "Humans can actually cause more problems than help, by stressing it; by causing it to do things that are unintentional."

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