A Eurobodalla surfer dived into the sea to rope a dead whale, timing his dive between shark feeding sessions, so it could be towed away from a popular beach.
The surfer, who did not wish to be named, took action on Wednesday evening after sharks had repeatedly fed on the carcass at South Broulee since mid-afternoon.
The South Broulee, Shark Bay, North Broulee and North Head beaches remained closed all day Wednesday and Thursday.
It is understood the surfer dived into the water to rope the carcass, timing his dive carefully between shark feeding sessions.
He and others towed the carcass in a borrowed boat out to sea to reduce the shark risk at local beaches.
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crewmembers had earlier reported two 3.5 metre sharks in the water nearby.
The distressed whale was noticed near the headland at about 11am on Wednesday and Stan Wall, chief lifeguard for Lifeguarding Services Australia, said a rescue operation was being coordinated with several agencies.
However, he said the whale died about two hours later, before the rescue could begin.
“About 30 minutes later, the first shark was seen,” Mr Wall said.
He said there were unconfirmed reports of up to four sharks near the carcass on Wednesday.
Mr Wall said the surfer’s action had nothing to do with his organisation.
“The decision had been to let Mother Nature be Mother Nature and then evaluate, but we heard he (the surfer) went down, secured it (the whale) and dragged it out late last night,” Mr Wall said on Thursday.
Mr Wall said sharks continued to be seen in the area on Thursday.
“There were four unconfirmed sightings by members of the public, but we personally only have had one sighting,” he said.
He said a crewmember saw a dorsal fin at about 8am Thursday, about 40m from where the whale died.
Mr Wall said two extra lifeguards were patrolling between North and South Broulee on jet skis on Thursday, but had not seen any sharks.
“Our understanding is that the bulk of the carcass was towed out to sea, but there is always a risk,” he said.
He said the incident began at about 11am when his crew reported a whale coming very close to shore at South Broulee.
A large crowd gathered as the drama unfolded.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Lawrence Orel confirmed the whale was a young humpback.
"They grow very quickly from birth (3m) to 8-10m within about two years," he said.
"This one looks in very poor condition which is very likely the reason it beached.
“The sharks are just doing what sharks do.”
“They are sometimes called the garbage men of the sea – they help keep the oceans clean by consuming carcasses of dead animals."