Orca gets free after being stranded on coast of Prince of Wales Island

An orca is stranded on shore rocks near Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.
An orca is stranded on shore rocks near Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.(Photo courtesy Captain Chance Strickland and crew of M/V Steadfast)
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 1:58 PM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:12 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A 20-foot orca whale that was found stranded near the shore of Prince of Wales Island on Thursday morning has since made its way back into the ocean with the help of the incoming tide.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began monitoring the whale this morning after it was spotted and reported by the M/V Steadfast. It appeared to be injured, NOAA reported.

Julie Fair, a public information officer for NOAA, said in a follow up email Thursday afternoon that the whale was able to refloat with the incoming tide, and that it left the area around 3 p.m. That’s what NOAA had been hoping would happen.

The M/V Steadfast initially reported that the killer whale was 4-5 feet above the tide line.

The NOAA gave the Steadfast’s captain and crew authorization to use a seawater pump to ensure the whale is wet and to keep away any hungry birds. Although the mariners were said to have been keeping their distance from the animal, bystanders wanting to help have gotten up close and personal to throw buckets of water on the whale.

Fair wrote that a law enforcement officer with NOAA relieved the Steadfast captain and crew and took over observing the whale along with Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

“Our officer and troopers report the whale was a bit slow at first, and meandered around a little before swimming away,” Fair wrote.

No other orcas were seen in the area, according to Fair. NOAA Fisheries is going to examine photos and video taken at the scene to determine if this was a known killer whale, Fair said, and to assess any injuries.

Stranded marine mammals can be reported to the NOAA Fisheries Alaska hotline at (877) 925-7773.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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