Stranded Killer Whale Survives Ordeal With Help of Good Samaritans
Alaska boaters stumbled upon a strange sight on Thursday: A 20-foot-long killer whale was on the shore, stuck in a crevice of rocks.
Someone on a boat had spotted the killer whale on Prince of Wales Island off the coast of British Columbia, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokeswoman Julie Fair said in an email.
The first call to the US Coast Guard came around 9 a.m. about the whale, which washed up on the rugged shores at least four feet above the tide line.
Soon Chance Strickland, the captain of a private yacht in Alaska, and his crew dropped anchor and came ashore to sprinkle the whale with seawater. The mist kept the whale cool and frightened them away. birds that had gathered nearby in the trees, waiting for a chance to eat the killer whale alive.
Mr Strickland and his crew hoped that when the tide came up that afternoon the 13-year-old whale would float and return to the sea. Mr Strickland could hear the killer whale screaming at the killer whales swimming in the area.
“I don’t talk a lot about whales, but it didn’t sound too thrilled,” he said.
People on other boats pulled up with water and buckets to put out the killer whale. Mr Strickland and his crew left the whale at the dock in case it started to collapse, he said.
“There were tears flowing from his eyes,” he said. “It was pretty sad.”
Mr Strickland left the island after wildlife officials came to relieve him and his crew, he said.
The tide finally came around 2 p.m. local time, NOAA said, and the seawater eventually rose high enough for the whale, known as T146D, to float again.
“It moved a bit slowly at first and meandered around a bit before pulling away,” Ms. Fair said.
It was a happy ending for the whale, which returned to the sea about six hours after being sighted on shore. Canadian authorities have confirmed the killer whale to be a Bigg’s Killer Whale of the “transient west coast” population.
The stranding came just a day after a powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southwest coast of Alaska. However, the earthquake, which was the largest in the country in 50 years, did not strand the whale, NOAA said.
Toa, an orphaned baby killer whale, suffered a different fate than the T146D after being stranded in New Zealand this month. Even though environmentalists fed the whale in a makeshift pool and volunteers spent days scouring the coast to find Toa’s family, the orca ultimately died.
In one of the largest whale strandings on record in the world, Australian rescuers last year rescued 108 of the 470 whales that landed on a large isolated sandbar in the rugged Macquarie harbor in Tasmania .
Live whale strandings are unusual but do occur from time to time, experts say.
Five whales, including T146D, have been recorded as stranded on the west coast over the past two decades, said Jared Towers, a researcher at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a department, and Bay Cetology, a killer whale research organization.
“These whales were hunting seals or sea lions and just made a mistake and basically got stuck and then the tide went out,” he said.
All of the whales except one survived the strandings, he said. When a stranded orca is on shore, it is at risk of overheating, being crushed by gravity, or being attacked by birds or bears.
The T146D survived the stranding with only superficial cuts and scrapes, Mr Towers said.
He said the whale may have been waiting for the tide to come up after getting stuck in the rocks. However, the tide fell instead, so the killer whale was separated for a few hours from other whales in the area.
“There’s a good chance he’s meeting them now, and he’s just going on with a normal life after spending time out of the water,” he said.
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