Marine wildlife officials are hoping a cut they made in a tourism ship's anchor line Sunday afternoon in Southeast Alaska freed an entangled humpback whale.
The whale became caught in the anchor line of UnCruise Adventure's expedition vessel Wilderness Explorer early Sunday morning, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"During the night, numerous humpback whales had been bubble-net feeding in the vicinity of the vessel, anchored in Holkham Bay near Wood Spit," said NOAA's regional office in Alaska. "One of these animals struck the vessel at 2:15 a.m. and became entangled in the anchor line."
The ship's bridge reported the line wrapped around the whale's pectoral fin, and then around its head and jaw as it turned, NOAA said.
A team of experts — the aptly named and trained Alaska's Large Whale Entanglement Response Network — was called in to help, and reached the scene by late Sunday morning.
The team assessed how bad the whale was caught in the line using a camera on the end of a long pole. Team members discovered the chain had wrapped around the animal's lower jaw, with a twist in the line.
The whale was caught and unable to move from within 50 feet of the ship, NOAA said.
Responders decided the best course of action was cutting the line, after which the humpback would free itself. Officials said the plan was set into action around 2 p.m.
"The animal remained at the surface initially before submerging," NOAA said. "Soon after a humpback believed to be the once-entangled whale was seen swimming rapidly away. They believe the whale was able to free itself."
The entanglement team stayed in the area for over an hour to try and relocate the whale but were unsuccessful, NOAA said.
About a year ago, two wilderness guides working on the same small cruise ship were mauled by a brown bear on a trail on Chichagof Island while leading a group of 22 tourists. Both guides survived the attack.