A beached whale stranded on the Australian Gold Coast for two days has been released back into the wild after an exhaustive effort by rescuers.
The 20-tonne juvenile humpback whale landed on Palm Beach on Tuesday evening with immediate attempts to refloat it failing.
Seaworld workers had raced to the scene to try and tow the two-year-old male animal back into the water, but darkness and low tides initially hampered the group’s shots at ushering the distressed creature back into its habitat.
A canopy was erected over the mammal, while buckets of water and wet blankets were thrown over it to keep it cool before it finally made it free on Thursday morning.
Video: Volunteers grapple with whale
“Once we saw it had cleared the break it was just absolute elation," Seaworld marine animal supervisor Tacha Mulligan told the Australian Associated Press.
“We all had our hands on our hearts and were just willing this whale forward.”
Tensions on the beach had run high as dozens of people watched the rescue mission from behind a cordon and reportedly began shouting at the rescuers, claiming that they weren’t doing enough to help the stricken animal.
The whale had also momentarily rolled onto its back before being turned upright by rescuers and was led into the rising waters. It then got stuck on a sandbar before being towed out into deeper waters.
Crowds cheered and clapped as the young whale broke free and continued its migration to the Great Barrier Reef.
“We were working against the conditions - time was running out on us,” Ms Mulligan added.
“It was the perfect time to go when we were able to release it. However, it has been out of the water and we are cautiously optimistic it will be OK from here on in.”
Ms Mulligan, who has worked for Seaworld for 20 years, said the team had invested “so much of our hearts and soul” into the mission.
They will continue to monitor the animal throughout the day and into the evening.