Dog in Big Hole res­cue drama

Mis­sion to at­tempt new ap­proaches to­day

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - RE­BECCA JACK­MAN and SANDI KWON HOO

HE IS known sim­ply as the Dog in the Big Hole and his story is grip­ping the na­tion – the dog that some­how fell down the Big Hole in Kim­ber­ley and sur­vived the 170m fall, and is now the sub­ject of fran­tic res­cue ef­forts.

Visi­tors to the Big Hole in Kim­ber­ley were the first to no­tice the dog swim­ming in the wa­ter at the bot­tom of the world fa­mous tourist at­trac­tion on Thurs­day morn­ing, al­though some peo­ple be­lieve he may have been trapped there for even longer.

Some ini­tially thought it was a meerkat but it soon be­came ap­par­ent that it was a Labrador. Some have taken to call­ing him the Un­der Dog.

Of­fi­cials from De Beers, which owns the Big Hole, said that while they were not cer­tain how the dog had got through the perime­ter fenc­ing, it may have some­how scraped through a gap in the wire.

“It is amaz­ing that the dog sur­vived such a steep fall. We are all hop­ing for a happy end­ing,” one of­fi­cial said.

A res­cue mis­sion was launched by the po­lice pro­vin­cial search and res­cue unit, ER24, the Sol Plaatje Emer­gency Ser­vices fire brigade, the SPCA and De Beers of­fi­cials yes­ter­day, but their at­tempts were fu­tile.

The mis­sion was aborted at 6pm as it was con­sid­ered too dan­ger­ous for the res­cue team to con­tinue, but was set to re­sume early this morn­ing.

At­tempts were made to save the Labrador from three dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the Big Hole but res­cuers found the ground too un­sta­ble for the use of an­chors.

ER24 North­ern Cape op­er­a­tions man­ager Al­bert Hensberg said ropes mea­sur­ing 400m in length were used in sev­eral ab­seil­ing at­tempts.

“The rocks were very sharp, while the ground was ex­tremely un­sta­ble and loose and could eas­ily re­sult in in­jury due to slip­ping,” Hensberg said. “We could not risk los­ing another life in the process.”

By late af­ter­noon, it was de­cided that the only way to res­cue the dog was by a he­li­copter and singer, Kurt Dar­ren tweeted that he was pre­pared to pay for the costs of the he­li­copter.

How­ever, it was de­cided that wind would in­ter­fere with the sta­bil­ity of a he­li­copter at low fly­ing lev­els and would en­dan­ger the lives of the pi­lot and crew mem­bers.

Dirk Coet­zee, man­ager of the Big Hole, said that for­tu­nately there is a lit­tle ledge near the wa­ter so the dog has not been swim­ming the whole time.

But he could not see any way that res­cuers would be able to get down the sheer cliff face.

“It’s too dan­ger­ous to get down and even more dan­ger­ous to come back up with the dog,” he said.

“We will have to try to come up with al­ter­na­tive mea­sures.”

Coet­zee said that parts of the cliffs had bro­ken up as res­cuers at­tempted to ab­seil down.

“We don't even know how it got there,” Coet­zee said.

“I have no idea who be­longs to.”

SPCA in­spec­tor Mario van der Westhuizen said that a dog was able to sur­vive for about a week with­out food as it was able to drink the wa­ter.

“How­ever, the dog has been swim­ming in the wa­ter for a long time.”

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PIC­TURES: SO­RAYA CROWIE

DOGGY PAD­DLE: The labrador has been seen swim­ming the perime­ter of Kim­ber­ley’s Big Hole.

RES­CUE AT­TEMPT: Po­lice of­fi­cer John See­ley is low­ered down the open mine in an at­tempt to res­cue the dog.

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