Best birthday present: After saving trapped whale

Pedrosub / Reuters
Spanish divers try to cut an illegal drift net off a 12-meter-long humpback whale, who got entangled in it near Cala Millor beach in the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain, on May 20.

MADRID (Reuters) — In a gripping underwater rescue, Spanish divers have freed a 12-meter long humpback whale entangled in an illegal drift net off the Balearic island of Mallorca.

One of the divers, 32-year-old marine biologist Gigi Torras, said last month the rescue and a little gesture of appreciation from the giant mammal were also a birthday present for her — the “best ever” in her words.

“It was like out of this world, it was incredible, just incredible,” she told Reuters on May 24. It was only the third time that a humpback has been seen around the Balearic Islands.

The weakened whale had been spotted by a ship about 4.83 kilometers off the eastern coast of Mallorca, prompting Palma de Mallorca’s Aquarium marine rescue center into action.

They discovered the whale completely trapped in the red fishnet so it could not even open its mouth.

After initial attempts to cut the net from a boat failed, divers from Albatros and Skualo diving centers joined the effort and plunged into the sea to remove the mesh with their knives in a daring 45-minute operation.

“The first 10 seconds she got a bit nervous, you know, like bubbles everywhere, but then I don’t know, call me crazy but I think she knew we were there to help her and she just relaxed and we started working from the front of her mouth backward,” said Albatros owner Torras.

“We kept cutting and cutting and she kind of gave a little wiggle to get herself out of it,” Torras said, adding that the mammal then stayed for a bit to regain her strength in the company of the four divers and even gave what looked like “a little thank you sign” before swimming off.