A busy Thursday morning in Kihei waters on Maui as 10 whales washed ashore.
“Really gives you an in depth of how nature is in tuned with itself so it was cool to watch. It was saddening but it was cool all at the same time,” Jason Keck, a witness, said.
Of the 10, six are back into the ocean. The four dead whales were euthanized. Another calf of the same species was found dead about a mile north of the original location later in the afternoon. Witness video shows bystanders tried to help but were told by volunteers to stay away.
“We knew something was wrong and they came up for some certain reason but we don’t know what happened,” Kanani Adolpho, another witness, said.
NOAA received reports around 5:30 a.m. of stranded small whales in the Sugar Beach area in Kihei. Researcher Robin Baird says he’s not surprised the mammals ended up there because of the environment around Sugar Beach.
“Shallow, very gently sloping sandy bottom,” Robin Baird, research with Cascadia Research Collective, said. “The area they were in is an unfamiliar area to them. They rarely spend time in shallow water and they basically would really never go into that area.”
There’s also confusion on the type of whale that washed up. Scientists are still trying to figure out if it was a melon-headed whale-like originally reported or a similar-looking species, the Pygmy Killer Whale.
“Pygmy killer whales have a very strong social organization, very strong bonds among individuals, melon headed, less so,” Baird said.
Although both usually live in deeper waters at least 1,500 feet deep. Baird says it’s important to find out what type of species in order to give a better explanation of what caused the stranding.
The five deceased whales are being cargo shipped to Oahu Monday evening. University of Hawaii researchers will be helping with the necropsy, looking for samples inside and out to hopefully find out what happened. The investigation could take weeks, even months.