Despite the high winds and poor visibility blowing out any SCUBA diving today, the Dive Team still had a busy day! Chief Diver Nesley set us up for a special jetty rescue drill to prepare for the upcoming fishing season. As people have fallen into the many rocks and concrete “jacks” of the Manasquan River Inlet jetty before, we wanted to train our new members on how we might respond to this unusual circumstance for which there is no textbook.
Rather than mannequins, two divers (in exposure suits) hid and wedged themselves into tight spots in the jetty to best simulate how actual human victims can become lodged and incapacitated in the structure. We started our search with divers learning how to maneuver through the rocks and jacks in teams, being mindful of their own safety while sweeping the jetty in a coordinated fashion.
Our first victim was located quickly, but she was stuck in a tight spot. The rescue team got some real world practice in stabilizing and loading a patient onto a Miller Man board under field conditions. The second victim (who took two sweeps to find!) was easier to stabilize, but we only had underwater or very tight egresses, so it took a little extra problem solving to get him out of the rocks. During our debriefing, two of our First Aid Squad’s EMTs also showed us some additional equipment that could be utilized for situations like this.
Everyone had a great experience in thinking our way through a situation with many variables. Although there isn’t a formula to follow for this type of rescue, it was good training in assessment, resources, communication, team work, and problem solving.
BEFORE WE EVEN GOT OUT OF OUR DRYSUITS, the Police Department contacted us with a report of a stranded whale about a mile south on the beach. Several of our members are trained Volunteers for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, so we responded immediately to the scene. Assistant Chief Melo contacted Bill Deer of the MMSC so he could direct us with what to do with the specimen
The animal washed up on the beach was a harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), a little over 5 feet long. We confirmed that it was dead. As per direction from Bill, we transported it off the beach and delivered it to the MMSC facility in Brigantine. Brandi Biehl met us after 10:00 pm to accept the specimen. She identified it as a female and the biggest harbor porpoise she’s ever seen - it weighed in at 163 pounds! (Brandi said that she can normally just sling one over her shoulder or cradle it under one arm.) The MMSC will be sending the specimen out for necropsy to hopefully determine cause of death. There were some superficial skin erosions around the fins and a few postmortem peck marks (possibly from gulls), but the thin line impressions around the porpoise’s neck and other lines down the length of the body were suggestive of netting. We can’t say anything for certain now, but everyone at the Stranding Center is incredibly dedicated. You can see what they’re all about at http://www.marinemammalstrandingcenter.org/index.htm