Rescue mission sparked by student studying moths

Highland cliff rescue mission sparked by student studying moths at night-time. Picture: Armin Hinterwirth/PA Wire
Highland cliff rescue mission sparked by student studying moths at night-time. Picture: Armin Hinterwirth/PA Wire
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A major air-sea rescue mission was launched after fishermen mistook a student studying moths for a distress signal.

The coastguard were called after a bright, white light was spotted shining in the dark, which was misinterpreted as a call for help.

Two coastguard crews, a lifeboat and a helicopter rushed into action at Carskiey Beach on the Mull of Kintyre, Argyll and Bute, in search of someone in trouble at the coastline.

However, it turned out to be a false alarm when it was discovered that the source of the light had been a biodiversity volunteer who was attracting moths as part of his studies.

The small fishing boat raised the alarm at 4:30am on Tuesday after spotting a bright light coming from the remote cliffs near the beach.

Concerned there may be someone in difficulty, the UK Coastguard sent the Oban and Campbeltown Coastguard Rescue Team as well as the Campbeltown RNLI all-weather lifeboat and the UK Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Prestwick, to the scene. When the teams reached the cliffs, the realised there was no danger and that the signal had been created unwittingly by the student.

The biodiversity student had been shining a light on a white sheet of paper in order to carry out a night survey of moths.

The rescue mission was called off but Stephen Turner, the UK Coastguard duty controller, said the incident provides them with the chance to put out a “valuable safety message” for those working in the area.

He said: “This is a very remote part of Scotland and the crew of the fishing vessel were right to contact us so we could investigate the source of the light. Fortunately, we were quickly able to establish that there was a biodiversity student in the area and not a potential search and rescue.

“It also provides us with a perfect opportunity to put out a valuable safety message to people who undertake work like this along our coastline.”

Earlier this month, a full-scale rescue mission was carried out in the Firth of Forth after a giraffe shaped balloon was mistaken for a downed aircraft.

South Queensferry coastguard rushed to the location after it was feared that a glider or microlight may have fallen, only to discover the inflatable giraffe bobbing in the water.