The small whale thrashed on the shoreline as a representatives of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network tried to get in close to help it out by getting a line to administer medication with. By “small” I mean maybe 10-11 foot, so it was really dangerous for them to get close enough to help.
This particular whale looked like it had some facial trauma that may have been the cause of it choosing to beach itself. Whales and dolphins will do almost anything not to drown, so would rather spend their last moments on shore instead of dying in the open water. Unfortunately, in this case there wasn’t much of anything people could do to help, other than providing some small comforts like keeping its skin moist and just being there with it as it transitioned. I hope it was comforted by how much they wanted to help and how much those wonderful MMSN workers care about our mammalian partners in the ocean.
Whales are rarely seen in our parts, but dolphins beach themselves regularly. And they’re all over the place in the water. Most of the times people think they see sharks from the beachfront and run to the guard telling them to close the beach they’ve been lucky enough to spot a bottle nose dolphin’s dorsal fin as they surface to grab a breath. They are fun to be near in the water as the joy they seem to radiate as they play in the waves is infectious. There have been a couple of times recently I’ve been out training or surfing, and dolphins were riding waves and jumping way out to the water. If you’ve ever been close to one that comes up to check you out it’s a little bit unnerving. Its like looking into another person’s eye, not just because of the similarity in the eyes themselves, but because its so clear that they are intelligent and as curious about us as we are about then. And with language that is decidedly more complex than ours and their big brains, there’s no telling what they’re discussing. When they’re near, just go underwater and listen and you’ll hear them chatting away, no doubt talking about you.
Back to our whale’s story. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it. It was too big and too dangerous to move to the rehabilitation center, not that it had much of a chance anyway. But that’s not the case for many of the other cetaceans that come ashore. Many have been rehabilitated and returned to the ocean. And the ones that are dead by the time we see them get necropsied so they can better track the reasons that they die and understand our partners better.
I can’t say enough about the MMSN. They even teach classes about how to help when you encounter a stranding that our staff and our junior guards have gone through. Remember, if you’re interested you can learn more, volunteer, or contribute by checking out their website at www.dolphinrescue.org.