Killer whales, also known as orcas, are the ocean’s top predators – but that doesn’t mean they don’t get into trouble from time to time.
A 20-foot juvenile orca, known as T146D or Leah, became stranded on the rocky coast of Prince of Wales Island when the tide went out. Luckily, people on a passing boat spotted her and came to the rescue.
The US Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were contacted and informed of the situation. NOAA Fisheries Alaska has a statewide 24-Hour Stranding Hotline for people to call to report stranded marine animals.
People are usually advised to keep at least 150 feet away from the animal, but wildlife officials gave the Good Samaritans permission to pour seawater on the orca to keep her safe until they arrived.
Locals also showed up to help the beached killer whale, including Aroon Melane. She was visiting her aunt, Tara Neilson, and leaped at the chance to help. She poured buckets of water on the orca and posted the “crazy experience” on her TikTok page.
Melane said the orca became more “lively” as they poured water on her.
My niece Aroon is up here and found this stranded orca several miles from here. In all the years I’ve lived here I’ve never heard or seen anything like this. I have to wonder if the 8.2 #Earthquake was to blame. NOAA is on its way to try to save it. #offgrid #Alaska pic.twitter.com/m6GO1q8Vg1
— Tara Neilson (@neilson_tara) July 29, 2021
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The boat was equipped with a hose and pump that rescuers used to spray the whale with water until help arrived.
“I don’t speak a lot of whale, but it didn’t seem real stoked,” Chance Strickland, the captain of the private boat, told The New York Times. “There were tears coming out of its eyes.”
At one point the orca cried out to her pod, which was spotted nearby.
NOAA officials arrived and took over hydrating Leah. They decided the best solution was to wait until the tide rose and hope that would free her.
Malone said in her video that the tide changes every six hours in Alaska, but a recent earthquake may have thrown the tide schedule off.
Thankfully, Leah was freed when the water rose over the rocks. She swam back into the ocean and was reunited with her pod.
Check out the amazing efforts by rescuers in the video below.
Did you know that there are only 74 Southern Resident orcas remaining in the wild? They are endangered and need your help. Click here to learn how you can help save these magnificent animals.
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