Captain Chance Strickland and Crew of M/V Steadfast via NOAA
A stranded orca is free and back in the ocean after getting stuck on the rocky coastline of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, on Thursday.
Sailors on a nearby vessel, the Steadfast, discovered the beached Bigg's killer whale and kept an eye on the marine mammal until Alaska Wildlife Troopers and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officer arrived on the scene, according to CNN.
NOAA spokesperson Julie Fair said the group authorized the Steadfast crew "to use a seawater pump to keep the whale wet and any birds away" until NOAA arrived.
"At times during the stranding, the killer whale was vocalizing, and other killer whales were spotted in the vicinity," Fair added.
Others on the ground used buckets of water and a hose to help the sailors keep the whale wet while waiting for NOAA to take over. TikTok user Aroon Melane posted a video of the group effort, noting that the whale was stuck for about six hours.
"We heard there was a beached killer whale, so we went to go find it. NOAA gave permission to keep the orca wet and protected from animals until they could arrive," Melane wrote. "We were working on getting a hose and pump to work. In the meantime, we used buckets to keep the orca wet. The orca started getting more lively after we put water on it."
The whale, which Canadian conservationist group Bay Cetology identified as a 13-year-old juvenile Bigg's killer whale, finally returned to the sea Thursday afternoon when high tide came in. Meanwhile, NOAA is examining photos and videos of the stranded animal to determine if it suffered any injuries.
Although the whale became stranded less than a day after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit the area, NOAA does not believe the earthquake was the cause. Bay Cetology shared a previous study that found transient killer whales have been known to become live-stranded "in pursuit of prey," usually seals.
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"Our research on this specific topic published last year shows that all killer whales live stranded along the west coast of North America in the last 2 decades have been of the Bigg's ecotype, and all of them survived, sometimes with a little help," Bay Cetology wrote on Twitter, sharing the study.