A killer whale stranded on a rocky shoreline in Alaska was saved in an hour-long rescue effort by boaters, locals and wildlife officials.
The 20-foot (6-meter) killer whale was spotted washed up on Prince of Wales Island last Thursday, apparently trapped in a rock crevice 4 feet above the tide line.
Boaters who first saw the beached whale alerted the US Coast Guard and went ashore to keep it cool with seawater and scare away seabirds planning a feast.
Images posted on social media Show the Good Samaritans by pouring buckets of water over the killer whale to keep it hydrated.
Finally, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) arrived to relieve the volunteers. At approximately 2 p.m., nearly six hours after the whale was first sighted, the tide had risen enough to allow it to float again and return to the ocean.
“It moved a little slow at first, and meandered a bit before swimming away,” NOAA spokeswoman Julie Fair said in a statement.
The agency said it was awaiting confirmation that the orca, which authorities say is a juvenile from Bigg’s transitional killer whale population off the west coast, and named T146D for triage and tracking purposes, had rejoined its pod. .
At least five other killer whales in the waters around Prince of Wales Island had been stranded for the past 20 years and all survived, according to researcher Jared Towers from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which monitors whale movements.
“They have all been reunited with their families after being stranded, and they have all survived and lived a normal, healthy life.” told Alaska Public Media.
“There is a good chance that he has run into them now, and is just leading a normal life after spending time out of the water. I don’t think anyone knows exactly when this whale was stranded, or what the circumstances were, but I would bet that the common seal hunt was the motivating factor. “
Whales have been known to chase seals and sea lions to shore and can get stranded in shallow water.
Chance Strickland, a ship captain who anchored to allow his crew to come ashore and assist the whale, told the New York Times I could hear him yelling at other members of the pack swimming nearby.
“I don’t talk much about whales, but he didn’t seem very excited,” he said. “Tears were coming out of his eyes. It was pretty sad. “
The whale was beached one day after a 8.2 magnitude earthquake It struck off the coast of Alaska, briefly triggering a tsunami watch, but Fair said the event was not a factor.