A stranded orca was freed from the rocky Alaska shore after hours spent beached.
On the morning of Thursday, July 29, sailors reported a beached killer whale among the tide pools on a craggy stretch of beach on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. This was no soft resting place in the sand, but a rocky cradle that held the marooned whale thoroughly trapped.
The sailors reported their find immediately, and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) instructed them to use their boat’s seawater pump to keep the whale wet and to deter any birds from pecking it at. Officers from NOAA and from Alaska wildlife quickly reached the scene.
“We heard there was a beached killer whale so we went to go find it. NOAA gave permission to keep the orca wet and protected from animals until they could arrive,” said Aroon Melane, a passerby who heard about the whale and came to help. “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.” Melane posted a video of the whale to TikTok.
Experts determined that the whale was a juvenile, a 13-year-old Bigg’s killer whale named T146D, part of a group monitored by Canadian conservation groups. Bigg’s killer whales, also known as West Coast transients, are a migratory population of whales that roam from Northern California to Alaska, feeding on mainly marine mammals.
By afternoon, the rising tide freed the stranded orca after a grueling six hours, and those present reported that it was able to swim free itself. There was blood in the tidepool beneath it, but it didn’t appear to be seriously injured. Bigg’s orcas beach themselves with some regularity, usually while hunting, and they usually survive the experience.