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Rescuers free entangled humpback whale off Chatham

The rescue team used a hooked knife attached to the end of a 30-foot-long pole to cut through the line.
The rescue team used a hooked knife attached to the end of a 30-foot-long pole to cut through the line. (Center for Coastal Studies)

A team of rescuers helped free a humpback whale that was entangled in rope off the coast of Chatham on Monday.

The young whale was in “relatively poor condition.” It had a black rope stretched tight across its back, and it had likely been entangled for some time. officials from the Center for Coastal Studies said.

The whale was swimming in a group of 40 to 50 humpbacks east of Chatham when it was discovered by a Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary team that was conducting a whale tagging study off Cape Cod, officials said in a statement. They waited by the whale until the response team from the Center for Coastal Studies arrived at the scene.

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Officials said freeing the whale was difficult because the rope had no visible loose ends. The Center for Coastal Studies team made “a slow, controlled approach” to the whale and used a hook-shaped knife attached to the end of a 30-foot pole to cut the rope across its back, the statement said.

“While the exact configuration of its entanglement is still unknown, it is hoped the whale will now shed the remaining rope without further intervention,” tofficials said.

Center for Coastal Studies officials said the rescue operation took about two hours to complete, and the whale will continue to be monitored for any changes to its health.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.