Western Australia Helo Pilot Saves Whale

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A helicopter tourism pilot used his Robinson R44 helicopter to scare a shark away from a calving whale along the west coast of Australia last week. Sean Blocksidge, proprietor of Wild Blue Helicopters of Margaret River, Western Australia, was on a flight with his friend and company pilot Brett Campany to do some aerial photography of the region, when they stumbled upon an incredible scene. "As we flew by the Wilyabrup Cliffs I spotted what looked like a very, very big fish from that high up," he said. This big fish turned out to be a southern right whale. Blocksidge said he thought it was trying to give birth because of how close it was to shore. As they approached, Campany spotted a three- to four-meter-long shark heading straight for the calving whale.

"Brett just made a decision to drop the helicopter above the ocean and herd the shark back out to deeper water. I'm all for letting nature do its thing but it would have sucked for the whale to have gone through 12 months of gestation only to have its baby gobbled up on birth." The plan worked, with the shark departing once the helicopter closed in. "Don't underestimate the herding capability of an R44—that shark spun around and swam off so fast it would have won Olympic gold in the 1500 meters," Blocksidge said. They then landed just above the beach so they could watch quietly from above as the whale gave birth. "We could hear her [the whale] heaving and breathing in the surf and all the while we were just hoping the shark had stayed in deeper water." A few moments later a dozen dolphins arrived and encircled the calving whale, protecting her.  Blocksidge said they left the dolphins to "manage the maternity ward for the night" and returned to base.