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With help from lion-hearted sailors stranded killer whale gets a new lease of life

The stranded killer whale on the Southeast Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island (All pictures courtesy Twitter/@neilson_tara)

The cries of anguish from another being evokes empathy and help, even if the being is not from our species. Like several other incidents, when human beings have bailed out stranded animals, this one involved a killer whale stuck in the rocks which was kept alive till the creature could make it back to the safety of deep waters,

Sometime towards the end of last month, July a ship which was near Southeast Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island, witnessed a heart wrenching scene that got them worried. They found a whale, nearly 20-feet in length, stuck on the rocks of the island’s jagged coast.

On reporting about the helpless mammal, the crew was authorised to bathe the creature with seawater, in order to keep its skin moist, according to Michelle Theriault Boots in a report that appeared in the Anchorage Daily News.

The ship's personnel not only kept the orca wet but also shooed and kept away hungry birds, which literally wanted a pound of flesh by gouging beak full of its meat.

Chance Strickland, the captain of the boat told New York Times’ Alyssa Lukpat and Jacey Fortin that he could hear the fighting creature calling out while he along with his crew bathed it with buckets of seawater. According to a report in smithsonianmag.com, he told the Times: “I don’t speak a lot of whale, but it didn’t seem real stoked.”

The departure of Strickland and his crew took place only after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Alaska Wildlife Troopers came as reported by Alaa Elassar and Andy Rose of CNN. The basic objective was to keep the skin of the creature cool and damp so that when the high tide turned out, it could float and move to the deeper waters. The mammal was stranded on the rocks for nearly six hours and it was when the high tide came that it was able to swim off.

The spokesperson of NOAA told the Daily News: “Our officer and troopers report the whale was a bit slow at first, and meandered around a little before swimming away.”

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The whale was identified as T146D by the local conservation and research group Bay Cetology. The code name T146D was given to this 13-year-old juvenile by scientists. Bay Cetology also disclosed that the young whale was a part of the West Coast population who are known as transient or Bigg’s killer whales. These whales are specialists in hunting marine mammals like sea lions.

Throwing more light on this orca, the group also said that the creature had been known to get stuck on occasions. This was a result of pursuing prey near the shore. Sadly, only one such killer whale stranded was able to survive while the remaining did not.

A researcher with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Bay Cetology, Jared Towers told the Times that the individual whale stuck on the rocks was most probably a part of a group “hunting seals or sea lions and just made a mistake and basically got stuck and then the tide went out,” he observed.

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Being a juvenile, T146D was light enough and thus it did not get crushed under its own weight as it was no longer suspended in the saltwater. The whale luckily escaped with just a few cuts and abrasions. “There’s a pretty good chance it’s met up with them now, and it’s just carrying on a normal life after spending some time out of the water,” Towers told the Times.