Young whale being monitored after getting temporarily stranded in Turnagain Arm

A juvenile whale is seen in Turnagain Arm on Thursday, May 6, 2021 near Girdwood, Alaska. The...
A juvenile whale is seen in Turnagain Arm on Thursday, May 6, 2021 near Girdwood, Alaska. The whale was stuck in the mudflats, but was able to free itself.(Photo courtesy Hannah Hillebrand)
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 9:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A whale became temporarily stranded in Turnagain Arm on Thursday, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to monitor it.

A sunny afternoon provided a sparkle coming off the waters of Turnagain Arm, and that had many folks looking at the water. That’s when Hannah Hillebrand saw something thrashing in the murky water.

“I was driving home with my parents from Tern Lake this evening and we spotted this whale that was sort of stuck,” she wrote in a message to Alaska’s News Source.

Julie Fair of NOAA Fisheries confirmed the whale was stranded along Turnagain Arm near mile marker 86, just south of Girdwood. Experts say the whale is a 30-foot long juvenile, but have not identified which species of whale it is.

“With the incoming tide, the whale was able to release itself from the mudflats,” Fair wrote in an email.

Last year, a young gray whale, some 18-to-20-feet long was stuck in a portion of the Twentymile River. The young gray whale became a subject of interest over Memorial Day Weekend when a fisherman in the river first reported the whale. The Twentymile River whale had been stuck in the area for over a week before a high tide in June allowed the whale to swim free.

But the whale’s carcass was found later in June near the Susitna River.

NOAA experts will continue monitor the whale in Turnagain Arm.

“Because the incoming tide will carry the whale further into Turnagain Arm, increasing the chance that the whale could become stranded again, NOAA Fisheries continues to monitor the situation,” Fair wrote.

If members of the public see the whale, they are asked to keep their distance and call the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 877-925-7773.

Hillebrand said seeing the whale was a real gift.

“We got the treat of seeing this whale up close when it got stuck by the low tide,” she wrote. “I was so happy it freed itself, but what a treat to see such a majestic creature.”

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