Last December, while deployed on Operation Caribbe, Canada’s contribution to the international war on drugs, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Ottawa and its air detachment worked together seamlessly in an animal rescue.
Ottawa’s CH-124 Sea King helicopter and crew were conducting a patrol ahead of the ship when Captain Derek Kauth noticed an unmanned bamboo raft in the water with three sea turtles in tow. After a closer look, the crew found that two of the sea turtles were tangled in a net attached to the raft.
The crew put their search and rescue training into practice by lowering their airborne electronic sensor operator, Corporal Rob Stoodley down the rescue hoist into the water to attempt to free the turtle.
The aircrew, who are members of 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron (belonging to 12 Wing Shearwater, N.S., but based at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, B.C.) provided continuous radio updates to the ship and launched a smoke marker into the water to indicate the trapped animals’ position.
The ship soon arrived and deployed its rigid hull inflatable boat and its Zodiac boat, carrying sailors from the ship’s diving team. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Bode was able to grab the net with a hook, while Master Seaman Allan Kobayashi unhooked the netting from one of the turtles.
PO2 Bode and Leading Seaman Sean Dubeau snipped the netting away from the second turtle allowing the two turtles and a baby turtle that was hiding to swim away unharmed. The dive team disassembled the bamboo raft and removed the netting from the sea to prevent further wildlife endangerment.
The rescue was an impromptu and well-executed effort between all departments of HMCS Ottawa and its air detachment, which speak volumes about the hard work and continuous training they have conducted during the past several months. The success was a great morale booster for sailors and animal lovers alike.