Friday, August 1, 2014
KODIAK, Alaska (AP) — Authorities were working Friday to determine if a 25-ton humpback whale died as the result of a collision with the state ferry Kennicott near Kodiak.
Scientists believe the whale was alive when it was struck by the vessel. And Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist for the University of Alaska Sea Grant Program, said it died of massive trauma.
"It got T-boned, basically, in a characteristic way that ship strikes have been evidenced before. So, broken ribs, broken spine, skull fracture - that sort of thing," said Wynne, a member of the investigative team. "The determination of how that happened is out of my realm, and it's in the investigation mode still."
Frances Gulland, lead veterinarian for the investigation, said it wasn't known whether the death was caused by the ship. Law enforcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration planned to look at various factors in trying to determine what ultimately killed the whale, KMXT reported (http://bit.ly/1m5M1Bj ) Thursday.
Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for the ferry system, said the incident happened on July 26, when the whale was spotted on the bulbous bow of the ship below the water's surface.
He told The Associated Press it was not clear how long the whale might have been there. There was no unusual sound to draw attention, said Woodrow, who noted that bumps are heard on the boat all the time due to logs or other debris in the water.
The whale slid off the vessel and sunk as the ferry slowed to enter the harbor, he said.
Wynne said the carcass of the whale was found on Monday beached at Puffin Island, a popular stop-off point for kayakers. Wynne warned that there would be an odor in the area for the next few weeks and asked that people not disturb the carcass.
"It's not only illegal to disturb the carcass, but we want to be able to go back and do more examination," she told KMXT.
Woodrow said such collisions involving a ferry are rare. He said no damage to the boat was reported.
Wynne said given how rare ship strike fatalities are, the team wants to study as much of the whale as it can.
Information from: KMXT-FM, http://www.kmxt.org