On Thursday, Sept. 21st, a newborn Minke whale was beached in Naden Harbour on the sandy shore of the Kung village site in Haida Gwaii. Spotted by Andy Adams, caretaker of nearby Samson Lodge, at 10:30 am, he knew he would need a few pairs of hands to get him back into the water. Andy boated down the bay to Queen Charlotte Lodge and asked if we would be able to help. Operations Manager Brad Palmer cleared the rest of the work day so that we could go and assist. What an incredible opportunity! Eight staff members piled into the boat with buckets to see what we could do. The whale was very still when we got there and we were worried that he was sick or injured. He had a few scrapes on his back, which could have resulted from being separated from his mother by a pod of Orcas and chased into the harbour.
We’ll never know why he got there but we knew we had to help him. We kept pouring buckets and buckets of water on him to get his temperature down and after a while he perked up a bit and started breathing deeper and moving slightly. He was so young he still had part of his umbilical cord attached and pink pectoral fins. We dug a bit of the sand out from around him to let the water pool there to keep his temperature down as the tide was coming in. High tide was at 2:30 pm, and he was beached right at the high tide line so we knew we only had a brief window of time to get him back in the water. Very carefully we stood in the water with him and repositioned him towards the deeper water. He responded very well and got livelier as the water got deeper around him. We stayed with him in the water while he got his bearings again. In a big burst of energy he flipped his tail and swam out in a small circle, but came right back to us! I guess he wasn’t quite ready to go yet.
About 15 minutes later he made his final exit to the deeper water and stayed around for a few minutes until we couldn’t see him any longer. What an amazing feeling to watch him regain his energy and swim back out into the ocean! What an incredible animal! With a bit of help, we hope he can now find his mother. What an absolute privilege to see a whale up close like that and be able to help him out. We all agreed that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
For more information on Minke whales follow this link: http://wildwhales.org/classify/baleen-whales/minke-whale/