"Operation Reynolds" Trying to help save Reynolds the Humpback In Reynolds Channel
I am no whale expert, I have more knowledge than some and much less knowledge than others. I also am not a writer, read on...you have been warned. Here is my facebook, twitter and Instagram if you want to follow
Since last week I have been getting reports and seeing mentions of a Humpback in Reynolds channel. Reynold’s channel is a very wide and deep channel, I use it daily to get to East Rockaway Inlet and out to sea to photograph whales. I have navigated it all my life and I have never heard of a humpback being in the channel. I stayed away from posting or bringing attention to the fact that there is a Humpback Whale in Reynolds channel, but when NOAA acknowledges this whale via social media, the word is out. This whale looks to be new to the NYC/LI area, it was given a number NYC0072 and a name “Reynolds” I thought Reynold’s would pop out under the Ab Bridge and out into ER inlet and be on its way by now, not the case!
When an event happens with a humpback I always call the USCG, inform them of my name, the situation, my boat name and phone number, then I call Gotham Whales director Paul sieswerda and depending on the situation with the whale and its condition I contact the correct organization. During the CCS and USCG entangled whale rescue attempt on Sunday Nov 9th I thought I saw the Reynolds Whale in ER Inlet just east of the AB bridge. I didn’t take photos due to being in route to NYC0071’s event. When the rescue was going on, off Long Beach I was get phone calls on the Reynolds whale. I was with the USCG and they along with the NCPD were informing me of the updates with it.
Its sunset on Tuesday, I get a call from a friend Jay. Jay says that there a whale under his boat in his marina in Mill River in East Rockaway! NO WAY! I hammer the throttle and this is where I love owning a Formula Boat, they are fast and get there quickly. On the way I radioed the USCG and called GW.
I get to the location of where Reynolds is, its 5ish and dark…daylight savings SUCKS!!!! I scream over to the dock where Jay is at “where is the whale” They scream back its coming towards you and it’s been here for a while. Ahhh, this is not good. They were right, the whale is heading right at the boat. My boat is loud, Reynolds passes the boat and turns for the opening to ER Channel, this is good! With the help of the direction from Jay and people on the shore we push the whale out with my boat, respectfully and not endangering the whale. A big thank you to Jay Zeilberger for the call! Here is a link to Jay's video this is how Reynolds scraped up its back!
I immediately call Paul sieswerda giving him a play by play and then call the director of Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS) on his cell. I get Rob on the phone and he is down in DC with the AMSFC Menhaden vote. Now, I was invited down to DC for this menhaden vote by Pew Trust to represent GW, I passed on the opportunity. I must stay here and document whales in NY and I am glad I did! Off subject, I digress… In conversation I give Rob the Lat’s and Longs on Reynolds the whale’s location. Rob informs me of the operation details for tomorrow and I go home slowly.
It’s noonish on Wednesday and meet up with AMSEA on a TOHBC boat along with Scott McInnis on his boat and his passenger Mike Busch is manning a camera for documentation. That whale pretty much stayed in the same spot I left him the night before, again its deep water with a very wide channel. Together the three boats pushed the humpback from East Rockaway channel into Reynolds, operation “Save Reynolds” is in motion! When we arrived at Reynold channel (see why its name is Reynolds) we met up with the New York State's Environmental Conservation Police Officers (DEC). For operation “Save Reynolds) I ran in front of the whale (giving up a position to take photos and being the “bad guy”) to informing boaters to slow down. I hailed captains on CH68, worked with the air horn of my boat and at times yelling…FYI I am extremely loud! As always, most captains comply and for those that didn’t when they saw the TOHBC and the DEC and slowed down. At about 230 the TOHBC left the scene with AMSEA on board.
The DEC, Scott and I pushed the whale all the way to the Atlantic Bridge and this is when it got a little crazy! High tide at the bridge was 436pm, we arrived at the bridge around 3pm. There are some shallows in that area especially at Bannister Creek entrance which is adjacent to the AB Bridge and Nassau Parkway. Reynolds the whale was right at the bridge on the north span and looking to get out to the ER Inlet side (west) of the bridge but keeps on the east side (Reynolds channel side). It’s getting nervous and for the first time lets out a trumpeting sound and in a mad dash the whale turns around almost hitting Scotts boat. The whale is touching bottom and powers its way out of the shoal which is like 2 feet deep and gets to deep water giving it a rest. Reynolds now goes to the other side of the channel running aground again this time I get worried for the safety of this whale but quickly again powers out.
Reynolds is now in Bannister Creek, it’s a deep channel all the way in but its sides are shallow. The whale takes a rest and stays in the channel with 20ft of water under him. The whale takes a break, gets it together and comes back out to Reynolds. At that time there are a few more boats and the whale started heading west back into Reynold channel. Seeing this, I opted out of operation “Save Reynolds”. At 330pm I left the whale and went out to see if I could find NYC0071 the entangled whale from Sunday. I saw a few whales, but none are NYC0071, so I went back in to see Reynolds.
Its 430pm, all boats are gone except for the DEC and I move back into “save Reynolds” mode. Soon the USCG shows up, I quickly point out the whale is directly in front of them in the main span of the AB Bridge, just feet from freedom! The USCG charges at the whale trying to scare it through. There is a boat on the other side coming in and the USCG must back down, it’s a busy inlet.
The USCG was there for 20 minutes or so and they bolted from the scene, leaving the DEC and I to man the operation at the bridge.
The Whale was pacing back and forth going from shore to shore on the east side of the bridge. Peaking its head, it almost every span of the bridge. Maybe get its nerve up to go under and out to the relative safety of ER Inlet and then the Ocean! The only way I can explain what this looks like is have you ever seen an animal, like a dog, that’s so afraid to go down stairs! It starts to pace back and forth and freaks out a little, that’s what going on here. I can clearly see this is what is happening, and I think the DEC captain see this as well. The DEC boat is west of the bridge in Reynolds Channel, the whale is between the DEC boat and the bridge. The Captain (I am guessing and paraphrasing) says FUCK IT, NOWS THE TIME! He starts making moves, big moves with his boat! And the action really starts to happen.
The DEC is making calculated moves with his boat to prod or nudge Reynolds the whale to freedom. Doing maneuvers with the boat that are helping to get this whale moving and it is working, its moving. The whale is trying to get out but its scared and still can’t make the decision to charge out under one of the spans! This goes on for some time and for a small moment of time we all believed the whale make it to the other side. That inclination was short lived, we saw the whales blow on the west side, nothing has changed this whale is being held captive inside Reynolds.
The video below is of the DEC trying to move the whale out under the bridge after hours of waiting and watching the whale, this happens! I am on the phone having a conversation with Paul sieswerda director of Gotham Whale, Paul is the other voice in the video. It was exciting and you can hear it in my voice, I was thinking this whale is moving out to sea as I was on the phone and that didn't happen!
As of 530pm on Thursday Nov 16th "Reynolds the whale" is still in on the wrong side of the Atlantic Beach Bridge! IT IS STILL IN DANGER!
I have my ideas on helping Reynolds the whale, so does everyone else! It’s easy to sit back and point fingers during and after the fact and bring up past situation of rescues and local stranding. Here is the fact - Something still needs to happen if the whale can’t get out. What was learned from the Moriches whales death? A “real” concerted effort from law enforcement and Whale organizations that can help...need to help the whale. Example the USCG, DEC, NYS Park police, TOHBC, Long Beach Marine Police, NCPD Marine and Aviation, LBFD, ABFD, SPLASH and add here ______ any agency you want that’s missing. Have one organization coordinate maneuvers on what needs to be done to help the whale. Keep boaters away from the whale as not to interfere with the rescue effort. Open that main span of the bridge so that whale can see the opening (see sunlight not a shadow). Get the whale to the right position in the center span while its open and make that whale move out with the government boats. sounds like a long shot, not really it almost happened about 5 times when I was with the whale, what was missing was a fleet of helpers and the center was closed! That's my take...
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