It has been described as their most unusual rescue of the year, and it involved a lifeboat and a haplessly marooned sea creature.
A team at the seafaring rescue service RNLI was called into action in Scarborough yesterday afternoon when they were alerted by the RSPCA to a porpoise that had become stuck in shallow water at the seaside town’s inner harbour.
A large crowd of onlookers gathered on Vincent Pier as an inshore lifeboat was launched to come to the aid of the 1.5-metre marine mammal.
The porpoise was stuck in the mud, facing the harbour wall and was unable to escape out into the open sea.
Rescue team leader Mark Rawlings switched the engine off as the lifeboat cautiously approached the creature, before crew members Chris Moss, Kyle Patel and Rob Gaunt jumped overboard and used oars to convert an ambulance pouch, normally used for human casualties, into a cradle.
The animal was then gently eased off the mud bank and coaxed into the makeshift support.
“There was a big cheer from the crowd when we got it alongside,” said lifeboat mechanic Dave Horsley, who was watching.
With the mammal safely in the arms of the crew it was slowly moved a short distance across the harbour to a nearby pontoon where an RSPCA officer was waiting to examine it.
When the porpoise was declared fit and well, the lifeboat secured it to the side of the boat and took it a mile-and-a-half out to sea where it was released.
Mr Horsley said: “We’ve carried out rescues of dogs over the years, but this is the first porpoise I can remember.
“It’s great to see something being returned to the wild and hopefully swimming off to join its pod. It did a couple of flips as it was going out and we didn’t see it again.”
Last year, the RNLI saved the lives of 431 humans, 41 dogs, two dolphins, three horses, one porpoise, one seal and two sheep.
Porpoise can be seen in the sea off Scarborough all year round and at this time, of year, both dolphins and whales can also be spotted.