By Peter Davenport

HOMEWARD BOUND: A young short-finned pilot whale is shoved into the Atlantic off Florida by workers from the Miami Seaquarium aboard a U. S. Air Force helicopter. It and another were the last of a group of whales stranded 13 months ago and returned to the wild after undergoing physical therapy for curvature of the tail. The whales were set free yesterday near a pod of pilot whales that scientists hope will accept them.

SYNOPSIS: The photograph (AP photo) of a short-fin pilot whale being dropped into the Atlantic Ocean from a U. S. Air Force UH-60 "Blackhawk" helicopter were published by both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times on April 29, 1992. Although no articles accompanied the photographs, the captions to the photos indicate that a pod of approximately a dozen, or more, whales was found beached near Key West, Florida, sometime during March 1991, and they were rescued, rather than being euthanized, then moved to an aquarium in Miami, where they were rehabilitated over the course of the subsequent 13 months. A peculiar characteristic seen in this particular group of whales was that their caudal peduncles, i.e. tails, were displaced laterally, i.e. "bent" to the side, to a severe degree, (a condition called "scoliosis"), perhaps 90 degrees from the longitudinal axis. The animals received therapy to straighten their tails, after which they were released to the wild by being flown approximately 150 miles east of Florida in military helicopters and dropped in the ocean. Two whales were released during each flight, and each flight involved at least three helicopters, two UH-60 "Blackhawk" military helicopters, as well as a U. S. Coast Guard helicopter, which is known to have accompanied them during their flights off the coast of Florida.

HEADING FOR FREEDOM: Workers from the Miami Seaquarium release a juvenile short-finned pilot whale about 150 miles east of Miami yesterday. It was found stranded on Key West in March 1991.

1. Why were the whales, which apparently showed signs of gross malformation of their tails, rescued in this case, rather than be euthanized, which traditionally is the case with large cetaceans that have beached?
2. Who, or what entity, possessed the resources necessary to quickly rescue the animals from a remote beach near Key West, Florida, and move them to a large facility in Miami on short notice? The animals weigh approximately 2-3 thousand pounds, and they must be moved very delicately when they are out of water, in order to avoid injuring their internal organs. Generally, special equipment is required just to move a cetacean even the short distance from the beach back into the surf.
3. How was a large facility secured on short notice to house the animals for 13 months? It seems logical to assume that someone may have been anticipating their arrival, and may have pre-arranged their lodging! But if that is the case, how did they know that there would be a beaching, which would give rise to a rescue?
4. Who provided the budget to feed, house, medicate, and rehabilitate a dozen or more large mammals for 13 months? Cetaceans of this size consume approximately 20-50 kilograms of fish per day, which costs approximately 1-2 dollars per kilogram, translating to a food bill of at least a thousand dollars per day for 13 months!!
5. Who paid the salaries and expenses of veterinarians, handlers, and staff for the required period of more than a year, and why?
6. What was the nature of the injury to the animals' "tails?" What causes the caudal peduncle of a large cetacean to be displaced laterally as severely as 90 degrees, and how is such a condition or injury treated? Were x-rays taken of the tails, and if so, where are they? What did they show?
7. Why was nothing seen in the national news about this story during the animals' rehabilitation, and/or prior to the release of the animals at sea? Given humans' interest in cetaceans, it would have been a logical "whale interest" story for the national news, but it was not covered at all, apparently.
8. Why were the whales flown some 150 miles (!!) out to sea to release them, rather than simply allowing them to swim out of their place of captivity?? After their rehabilitation, they should have been able to swim quite adequately, and a group of 12 or more pilot whales should constitute a "pod" Hence, it should not be necessary to find a second pod for them to join. After all, presumably the group constituted a pod when they first beached themselves near Key West.
9. How was military equipment secured for this operation, and what military budget was used to pay for approximately 40-50 flight hours by three helicopters? The cost of operating of a heavy military helicopter is measured in thousands of dollars in direct expenses per flight hour. Therefore, the "taxi fare" to deliver at least a dozen animals 150 miles offshore must have been measured in tens, or hundreds, of thousands of dollars!! Would it not have been substantially cheaper to use a ship to transport the whales out to sea?
10. Who made the decision to allow three helicopters, at least two of which were non-amphibious, to fly approximately 150 miles out to sea, placing the craft over open water for a 2-hour flight? The price of the operation goes up substantially if a helicopter has a mechanical problem, and is lost at sea. A "Blackhawk" helicopter costs the American taxpayers in excess of $10 million; crewmembers carry a certain monetary value, as well?
11. Why were the whales released, at all? Is there some magnanimous donor who so adores cetaceans so much that he, or she, provided approximately a million dollars, or more, simply to rehabilitate them and return them to nature? How would such a person be able to secure participation and assistance by the military?

Prepared by:

Peter B. Davenport, Director
National UFO Reporting Center
P. O. Box 45623
University Station
Seattle, WA 98145
Dated: February 05, 1998

NOTE: This document is not copyrighted material and may be copied and distributed freely. Acknowledgement of the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, WA, as the source of this document would be appreciated. Thank you!


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