It’s always inspiring to see strangers come together to help an animal in need. When an orca whale ended up stranded on a beach recently, a group of bystanders came to its side until it could get back to the sea.
According to KTUU, the 20-foot whale became beached on the shore of Prince of Wales Island in Alaska on Thursday.
It isn’t entirely clear how the whale ended up on shore. The incident came a day after a 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck the cost of Alaska, but authorities said that wasn’t the cause.
The whale was helpless and struggling, and appeared to be injured after landing on the rocks, and there was no sign of the juvenile whale’s pod.
It was an unusual sight: “In all the years I’ve lived here I’ve never heard or seen anything like this,” wrote Tara Neilson, who shared photos of the scene on Twitter.
But the whale did get some unexpected help, when a group of bystanders showed up and splashed the whale with buckets of water, helping it to keep hydrated.
“Lovely people helping,” Tara wrote.
The bystanders were moved to act after seeing how helpless the whale looked. “I don’t speak a lot of whale, but it didn’t seem real stoked,” Chance Strickland, a yacht captain who was part of the rescue team, told the New York Times. “There were tears coming out of its eyes. It was pretty sad.”
According to KTUU, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was monitoring the situation, authorized a passing ship, the M/V Steadfast, to pump seawater onto the whale.
While NOAA advised locals to keep away from the whale, as orcas can be dangerous, the bystanders helped keep the whale hydrated until it could get free.
Eventually, a tide came in allowing the orca to float back into the sea and be on its way. “Our officer and troopers report the whale was a bit slow at first, and meandered around a little before swimming away,” said Julie Fair, a public information officer for NOAA.
Back in the ocean, the orca is now being tracked by researchers from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, according to KRBD.
While the whale was visibly injured, and it’s not clear if it rejoined its pod, the researchers are still optimistic about the whale’s chances of survival. They have tracked five whales who survived similar beaching situations, and four are know to still be alive.
“I was fairly optimistic, because of the way it looked and the fact that there wasn’t a significant amount of blood and the tide pool below it …(It) seemed to be in good health,” researcher Gary Sutton told KRBD.
We’re so glad this orca is back safe in the ocean. Thanks to the kind bystanders who showed up to keep this whale safe while it was stranded on land!