Crew’s ‘tender’ efforts to save the falcon after a ship struck off the coast of South Carolina fails | Business


A container ship en route to the port of Charleston took on an unexpected passenger last weekend when a peregrine falcon crashed into the ship’s deck, and despite attempts by the crew to save the bird, he eventually died of his injuries.

OOCL Seoul crew members described observing five large birds chasing several smaller ones as the ship was anchored off the coast of South Carolina while awaiting the opening of a berth at port, according to Gary Santos with Inchcape Shipping Services, which handles customs formalities for the shipping line.

The falcon apparently dove towards one of the smaller birds and was unable to correct its course before hitting the ship, crew members told Santos. The crew then cordoned off the area where the bird landed and made its health a major concern while docking at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.

“I got on board to return their documents and the captain came to me and said, ‘Look, we’ve got this one problem – a bird crashed into our ship,’ Santos said. Sonislaw Gapski, told Santos he would like to save the bird if possible, and a call was made to the Awendaw Avian Conservation Center.

“This captain and his crew were so loving about this bird, which was so amazing to me,” Santos said.

Unfortunately, the bird’s injuries were too severe and he later died at the avian center.

“We’ve been doing this for 30 years and when we lose one it’s like 30 years ago – we never get used to it,” said Jim Elliott, founder and executive director of the center.

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Elliott said the hawk suffered central nervous system damage and was paralyzed by the collision.

“It doesn’t happen very often with pilgrims because they are so nimble and skillful at what they do,” Ellliott said. “But, still, when you fly at relatively fast speeds, things can certainly go wrong.”

Peregrine falcons are the fastest bird in the world, reaching speeds of 200 mph when diving for prey.

Sightings of birds of prey are common off the coast of South Carolina – it is a migration route for many migratory species – and the birds often hitchhike on container ships as the ships are the only structure available when crossing large bodies of water. Large birds, like the hawk, feed on shorebirds during their migration in what Elliott called “a fairly complex and well-choreographed hunting system.”

But deadly encounters such as the one experienced by OOCL Seoul are quite rare. Bird strikes most often occur at dusk or at night, when birds can become disoriented by a ship’s lights and collide with the ship. OOCL Seoul was anchored by day. He left the Wando Welch terminal on Sunday for the port of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

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Contact David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

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