Hav­ing a blast

The Oban Times - - Front Page - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­times.co.uk

JURA Coast­guard had their hands full af­ter they were called out to an un­ex­ploded de­vice and the rot­ting car­cass of a huge minke whale. Full story

IT WAS a busier day than usual for Jura Coast­guard, find­ing an ex­plo­sive dead whale and ex­plod­ing an even nas­tier beach­comb­ing sur­prise.

Sta­tion of­fi­cer and postie Graeme Lind­say was, like oth­ers in Jura Coast­guard, ‘knack­ered’ af­ter a hard day’s work that April af­ter­noon, hav­ing mowed the is­land’s airstrip be­low Knock­rome.

Then a call came in that a dan­ger­ous flare had been spot­ted washed up on a beach near Barn­hill – 18 miles away at the is­land’s rugged ‘ unget-at-able’ north­ern tip, where Ge­orge Or­well wrote his dystopian novel 1984.

All but one of Jura’s 12-strong Coast­guard team were despatched to find the in­cen­di­ary hidden somewhere in the wild, dif­fi­cult ter­rain, with one mem­ber chang­ing hats to also serve as a po­lice­man.

‘It was a good turn- out,’ Graeme said. ‘One of the guys used to do mine clear­ing in Africa, so we have a bit of ex­per­tise. Nasty things flares. Fumes from the white phos­pho­rus are quite dan­ger­ous, and if it sticks to your skin it keeps burn­ing.’

Af­ter two hours of search­ing, they lo­cated the foot-long mil­i­tary flare on the shore, and called in the bomb squad. ‘It’s a very re­mote part of the coun­try,’ he said. ‘It’s prob­a­bly once in a gen­er­a­tion that some­one was down there.’

The Royal Navy Ex­plo­sive Ord­nance Dis­posal team ar­rived the next day. ‘They put ex­plo­sives round it, and we re­treated,’ Graeme re­called. ‘It was a mas­sive blast. The ex­plo­sion was heard across the wa­ter on the main­land, about four or five miles away. The ex­cit­ing part was the bits of phosopho­rus fly­ing off.’

It was all part of the ser­vice. ‘We saw it, we called the bomb squad, they ex­ploded it,’ he said. ‘Then it was back home for tea and medals. One of the bomb dis­posal guys came back on hol­i­day be­cause he loved it so much.’

But the Jura Coast­guard ad­ven­tures hadn’t yet fin­ished: on the same day as the flare alert, another call came in re­port­ing a large whale – pos­si­bly a minke – rot­ting at Jura’s even more unget-at-able north-west coast near Glen­gar­ris­dale.

One cu­ri­ous fol­lower of the Jura Coast­guard’s Facebook page won­dered how the team could get rid of the whale, given their re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence of con­trolled ex­plo­sions.

How­ever, ‘it would prob­a­bly ex­plode on its own,’ Graeme thought. ‘This one was so re­mote it was not a dan­ger.

‘If it’s still alive and ex­hal­ing you have to be very care­ful near the blow­hole. There are some nasty bugs on it.

‘You can end up in hospi­tal if you breathe it in. That’s why we cor­don them off when we find them.’

If any­one does find a live, stranded whale, and is a man, they are ad­vised not to talk to it.

‘A woman’s voice soothes them,’ Graeme ex­plained, ‘but a man’s voice stresses them out.’

The first point of contact is the Bri­tish Divers Marine Life Res­cue hot­line, and, in the mean­time, visit its web­site for ad­vice on what to do and what not to do.

The bomb squad det­o­nate the ex­plo­sive and Coast­guard ex­am­ine the dead minke whale.

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