Why knowledge matters in maritime rescue

A baby dolphin trapped in a rock pool near Moruya stands out vividly in high school student Saskia Macey's memory.

The 16-year-old from North Nowra is an ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) volunteer, joining the effort to save whales and dolphins that become beached on the South Coast.

"I've always been interested in animals but I went to a [whale] stranding once and I couldn't help. I wanted to but I just didn't have the knowledge," she said.

Since completing an ORRCA short course about two years ago, she has put her know-how to good use at two whale strandings, the baby dolphin stranding and several seal "haul-outs".

"We have to keep [the whale] wet so its skin doesn't dry out in the sun, so we put sheets on it, but not over the fins or the flukes because that's how they thermoregulate," she said.

"We have to make sure that people don't get too close because that can scare them, and we don't go behind them because they like to know where you are.

"Being so close to something like that and knowing that you're helping is just the best."

Saskia said she was yet to be involved in a successful rescue, but knew that she had helped the dying animals.

"It definitely gives you a purpose," she said.

ORRCA will be training volunteers in whale, dolphin, seal and dugong rescue techniques in Wollongong tomorrow.

The one-day course involves theory and practical training and costs $75 for members. Non-members can sign up for $28 plus the workshop fee.

Call 9415 3333 to register or visit orrca.org.au for information.

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