Alaskan boaters, locals, and wildlife officials have banded together to rescue a 20-ft (6 meters) orca (Orcinus orca) that washed up on Prince of Wales island last Thursday.
Boaters from a nearby vessel, the M/V Steadfast, first saw the stranded killer whale apparently stuck in a crevice of rocks four feet above the tide line and have alerted the US coastguard.
Authorities gave the crew permission to splash seawater over the whale to keep it cool and to scare away sea birds hovering for a feast until officials could arrive.
Groups of people used buckets of water for hours, then eventually a pump-and-hose system to keep the killer whale cool.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) eventually arrived to relieve the volunteers.
NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Julie Fair told CTVNews.ca in an email on Sunday that marine mammal experts from NOAA Fisheries “decided to take a wait and see approach, hoping that with the incoming tide, the killer whale would refloat and be able to leave the beach area.”
The tide had risen sufficiently by about 2 pm, almost six hours after the whale was first spotted, to allow the whale to refloat itself and return to the ocean.
“It moved a bit slowly at first, and meandered around a little before swimming away,” said Fair in a statement.
Officials said the whale is a juvenile from the west coast’s transient population of Bigg’s killer whales.
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