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Friends sought for Chiloe’s whale

Fifteen months ago an exciting announcement was made by biologists from the University Austral that the largest concentration of Blue Whales (the largest animal to EVER live on earth) in the Southern Hemisphere was just discovered off the southern part of Chiloe Island and across to the coast of Patagonia.  People are working to try to create a marine protection area- if this is accomplished it will be only the second such area along Chile’s 2500 miles of coastline.

A month ago a 25 meter (82 foot!) blue whale beached itself on Chiloe’s rugged Pacific Coast west of the city of Ancud, where I live.  Together with the Director of the Regional Museum of Ancud and the Association of Tourism of Ancud, we are making a call to the public at large (nacional and international) for assistence.  We have a very unique opportunity and very little time.  Our aim is to organize a project to safeguard the whale remains by preparing them for transport by scientists, cleaning them and then creating a special exhibit in the Museum of Ancud.  This would be of incalcuable educational value to all inhabitants of Chiloe and indeed, Chile as a whole as the country watches on TV and celebrates the progress of the project and the return of the whales to its coasts.  (The largest whale skeleton in Chile is 7 meters – 23 feet, the largest in the US: 22 meters – 72.6 feet)

Time is not on our side. Winter has arrived and the whale remains aredecomposing.  We are calling for all interested in assisting this unique corner of the world or simply helping science and education in general.  Due to the difficult access we plan on having 6 biologists and veteranarians accessing the area on foot to cut off the carcass and label all bones.  The bones would then have to be bundled into packets that can be airlifted 1 km (.4 miles) to where there is road access.  This can only be done by a helicopter.  The head alone weighs 3000 kilos (6.500 pounds)!  From there the remains would be transferred to a calm water area on the interior of the island to be deposited for 8 months of cleaning by nature.

We have the support of local authorities, the Coast Guard, the Regional Museum and private entities.  The community is supporting the effort with food, trucks for transport, and materials.  What is lacking is money to pay for the helicopter services and transport.  To do this safely and with the utmost regard to the scientific value of this specimen, we are trying to raise US$40,000.  This is simply for the first stage of the project and the most urgent.  The second stage- building a venue in the Museum, will come in due time and there are ways to raise the necessary funds.

Please assist us in our efforts to celebrate the return of the great whales to the coast of Chile (and indeed, the world).

Many of you have joined my company Austral Adventures to enjoy the beauty of this area’s environment and local culture. I hope your fond memories and understanding of this area prompts you to respond to this mail.

I look forward to your assistence.

Thank you and regards,

Britt Lewis
Austral Adventures Turismo Ltda
Chiloe & Patagonia…by land and sea
Lord Cochrane 432, Ancud, Chiloé, Chile
tel/fax + 56 65 62 5977

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