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volunteers worked with the Whale Release and Strandings Group to help save the dolphins stuck near Lance Cove beach.

Newfoundlanders brave blizzard to save trapped dolphins

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Monday, April 3, 2017, 7:20 PM - In an incredibly moving tale of survival, residents of Bell Island, NFLD, rallied together Monday to save five white-beaked dolphins trapped in thick pack ice pushed towards the community by a powerful storm.

It was Sunday evening when Lisa Gear's husband, Lenny, received a call about 11 dolphins stuck around the island's Lance Cove Beach.

After contacting the Whale Release and Strandings Group, Lenny and his uncle John Gear were told to leave the dolphins alone as the mammals were in distress. Around 7:30 p.m. local time, the men went back to check on the pod and noticed one dolphin was farther out to sea.

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Courtesy: Lisa Gear

"Pans of ice came in and they were grounded, trapped between the shore and the ice, so they couldn't move," Lisa Gear told The Weather Network. "You could hear the noise from the blowhole of the one [dolphin] further out."

After climbing across chunks of ice, the two men along with their friend Paul Murphy located the mammal in a confined area. They successfully pulled the dolphin to where the others were located.

Christine Byrne who helped with rescue compared the area the dolphin was stuck in to a pothole.

"It was so small, like a pothole. His head was up, we could hear him just gushing in the water," she said. "I had to run right across the beach to get rope and I mean, my ankles were rolling on the rocks. I thought I was going to break my ankle. I got the rope and went back to the boys, so they could get the first dolphin. It was nice when he got to the other side."

It was a sleepless night for the men as they feared for the dolphins' safety. Around 6 a.m. Monday morning, they discovered two dolphins had died. More ice was pushing forward and time was running out.

The group quickly devised a plan and were able to transport the dolphins to open water by using a makeshift tarp stretcher. The marine mammals were then loaded onto a truck and driven to an ice-free inlet about 500 feet down the shoreline.

Courtesy: Lisa Gear

It wasn't an easy task as the group of volunteers battled strong winds, rain and ice pellets. Each dolphin weighed about 300 pounds and residents were forced to tread through snow and across large beach rocks, according to Byrne.

Unfortunately, one dolphin died in transit, however, five were successfully transferred to open water. 

"It was a do or die situation," Byrne told The Weather Network. "If we hadn't of done anything, they would have died, guaranteed."

At one point there were about 50 volunteers helping out with rescue efforts, noted Gear.

"It was a lot of work. They are exhausted, but they are beyond happy. They feel like they've accomplished something," Gear said. "There were so many volunteers, this community really rallied together."

The inlet the dolphins are currently located in has some ice, however, the space is much larger with more room for them to swim around, according to Gear.

"They are not out of the woods, but they're in the clearing," she said.

The Whale Release and Strandings Group will be heading to Bell Island on Tuesday to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, sea ice trapped a humpback whale near Old Perlican, Newfoundland. It was confirmed Monday that the whale had died due to the circumstances.

"While Newfoundland has lost a whale, at least we were able to help this way," said Gear. "There's a huge sense of community pride."

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