Alaskans band together to save beached killer whale

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A beached killer whale in Prince Edward Island, Alaska, on Thursday, 29 July, 2021. (Courtesy of Captain Chance Strickland and crew of M/V Steadfast via NOAA)
A beached killer whale in Prince Edward Island, Alaska, on Thursday, 29 July, 2021. (Courtesy of Captain Chance Strickland and crew of M/V Steadfast via NOAA)

A group of Alaskans banded together this week to save a killer whale that had washed up onto the rocky coastline of Prince of Wales Island, near British Columbia.

Calls to the US Coast Guard began coming in early morning on Thursday that an orca had beached itself.

Authorities gave the crew of a passing yacht, the M/V Steadfast permission to splash sea water over the whale and ward off animals until officials could arrive.

For hours on end, groups of people used buckets of water then eventually a pump-and-hose system to keep the 20 ft whale cool and protected from birds that were circling, hoping to eat the creature alive.

“We heard there was a beached killer whale so we went to go find it,” Aroon Melane, one of the volunteers who helped rescue the whale, described in a TikTok she made of the incident. “NOAA gave permission to keep the animal wet and protected from animals, until they could arrive. We were working on getting a hose and pump to work. In the meantime we used buckets to keep the orca wet. The orca started getting more lively after we put water on it.”

Witnesses said the whale, later confirmed to be a 13-year-old juvenile Bigg’s killer whale, appeared to be in great distress during the six or so hours it was stranded.

“I don’t speak a lot of whale, but it didn’t seem real stoked,” Chance Strickland, captain of the Steadfast told The New York Times. “There were tears coming out of its eyes,” he added. “It was pretty sad.”

Eventually, the tide rose enough that the giant animal, which likely became stranded while hunting seals, was able to swim back out into the ocean.

Authorities confirmed that the beaching was unrelated to Wednesday’s 8.2 magnitude earthquake in the state.

Killer whales are rarely found beached on the shore, though it does occur from time to time.

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