13th December 2017

WATCH: Sheepdog Nan lifted to safety by coastguard after Unst cliff plunge

Willie and Belle Spence and Nan with the coastguard team. Jordan Johnson is second from the left. Photo: Dave Sweeney

Shetland Coastguard officers abseiled down a 90-foot cliff bank in Unst – to rescue a sheepdog that had plunged over the edge.
The two-year-old animal, Nan, survived the fall on Tuesday and was none the worse for her adventure after being lifted to safety.

She was brought back to the top by crew members who had to perform a rope rescue, abseiling down the banks at the Nev near Clibberswick to retrieve her.

Coastguard man Jordan Johnson was lowered over the cliff to rescue Nan.

The Baltasound Coastguard rescue team received the call at about 4pm.

Owner Willie Spence and his wife Belle had been out for a walk when Nan saw a rabbit and chased after it.

Belle said that Nan, who she described as “very playful and friendly” became excited and ran straight over the banks.

After realising what was about to happen Willie “couldn’t get his whistle out fast enough” but it was too late to stop Nan going over the sheer drop.

Belle, who is known to many as the organiser of the Shetland Relay for Life, said: “We had a job seeing her because she was in a long narrow geo. We went one each side. She went into the water and swam on to a rock, then went back under the cliff. It looked as if she wasn’t injured, but she was howling. It was heartbreaking.”

She said it would not have been safe to attempt to rescue Nan themselves. “We were devastated. We didn’t know how on earth we’d get her out. It was awful.”

Willie and Belle tried to keep Nan calm by shouting and talking to her.

Fortunately, Belle had two mobile phones with her, having just bought a new one, and was able to raise the alarm.

The cliff rescue team was assembled with crew members from various locations in Shetland. They used the episode as a training exercise but managed to lift Nan to the surface unharmed.

Rope rescue technician Jordan Johnson went over the cliff edge to approximately 30 metres down to make the rescue.

Belle said: “It took six hours in total but we got a good insight into a cliff rescue using a pulley and ropes.”

 

 

Nan was coaxed into a basket and after she was hauled back up Belle said: “She was just delighted and seemed to go to all the men to thank them.

“We can’t thank the coastguard enough”.

Willie said he was overwhelmed to be reunited with his beloved dog which was given to him as a retirement present. He is training Nan to be a sheepdog.

Senior coastguard operations officer Dave Sweeney praised the rescue team for conducting a “textbook rope rescue”.

“While rope rescue incidents are not common in Shetland, coastguard rescue teams around Shetland are trained to deal with such incidents, providing the local community with a vital emergency response,” he added.

Video and photos taken by Dave Sweeney.

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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