On Thursday, boaters in Alaska stumbled upon a strange sight: A 20-foot-long killer whale was stuck in a rock crevice on the shore.
Julie Fair, spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in an email that someone on a boat saw an orca on Prince of Wales Island off the coast of British Columbia.
The first call to the U.S. Coast Guard came at around 9am about the whale stranded on uneven shores at least a meter above the tide line.
Soon after, Chance Strickland, captain of a private yacht in Alaska, and his crew dropped anchor and came ashore to spray the whale with seawater. The fog cooled the whale and frightened away the birds that had gathered in the trees nearby, waiting for an opportunity to eat the orca alive.
Mr. Strickland and his crew hoped that when the tide rose that afternoon, the 13-year-old whale would swim and return to the sea. Mr. Strickland could hear the orca calling out to killer whales swimming in the area.
“I don’t talk much about whales, but he didn’t seem very excited,” he said.
People on other boats stopped with buckets and water to soak the orca. Mr Strickland and his team said he gave the whale a wide bed in case it started shaking.
“Tears were flowing from his eyes,” he said. “It was pretty sad.”
Mr Strickland said he left the island after wildlife officers arrived to comfort him and his crew.
NOAA said the tide finally arrived at around 2 p.m. local time, and the seawater had finally risen until the whale, known as T146D, was swimming again.
“It moved a bit slow at first and curled up a bit before swimming away,” said Ms. Fair.
It was a happy ending for the whale, who returned to the sea about six hours after being spotted on shore. Canadian authorities have confirmed that the orca is the killer whale of a Bigg’s “West Coast transient” population.
The beaching came just a day after a powerful attack. 8.2 magnitude earthquake Shot off the coast of southwest Alaska. But NOAA said the quake, the nation’s biggest in 50 years, did not cause the whale to run aground.
toa, an orphaned baby killer whale suffered a different fate than T146D after making landfall in New Zealand this month. Although conservationists fed the whale in a makeshift pool and volunteers scoured the beach to find Toa’s family, the orca eventually died.
Experts said live whale striping is unusual but does happen from time to time.
Jared Towers, a researcher at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a government department, and Mr. Cetology, a killer whale research organization, said five whales, including T146D, have been recorded stranded on the West Coast over the past two decades.
“These whales were hunting seals or sea lions and they just made a mistake and basically got stuck and then the tide went away,” he said.
All but one of the whales escaped stranding, he said. While on shore, a stranded orca is in danger of being overheated, crushed by gravity, or attacked by birds or bears.
Bay Towers said the T146D escaped landfall with only superficial cuts and scrapes.
He said the whale may have been waiting for the tide to rise after getting stuck in the rocks. However, the tide fell instead, so the orca was separated from the other whales in the area for a few hours.
“There’s a pretty good chance he’s met them now, and he’s leading a normal life after spending some time out of the water,” he said.