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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Rare whale dies after beaching on Maui

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

KIHEI, Maui — A rarely seen species of open-ocean whale died yesterday morning after stranding itself at Kama'ole Beach Park I in front of a crowd of onlookers.

Maui County lifeguards, state conservation enforcement officers and representatives of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary work to move a dead Blainville's beaked whale at a Kihei beach.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Although it was alive and rolling in the surf when officials arrived on the scene at 9 a.m., the 16-foot Blainville's beaked whale died about an hour later.

The adult male animal, which appeared to have shark bites and skin problems on its underside, was taken to the Kihei headquarters of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, where a veterinarian conducted an autopsy. Preliminary results were expected to be available today.

Although there are at least three species of beaked whales thought to frequent Hawaiian waters, little is known about these rarely seen animals. Like other toothed whales, Blainville's beaked whales are believed to feed on squid and fish and may live in social groups of several individuals.

Erina Hill of Kihei said she was on her bodyboard just before 9 a.m. when she heard someone yelling to get out of the water.

"I was wondering if there was a shark out there,'' she said.

The whale was thrashing about, Hill said, and county lifeguards unsuccessfully attempted to push it out to sea.

Officials later tried to push the whale onto the beach to avoid attracting sharks, but the whale was too heavy. Eventually, construction contractor Goodfellow Bros. Inc. offered the use of some heavy equipment and the whale was lifted off the beach and trucked three miles to the sanctuary headquarters. There, Betsill Brothers Construction Inc. helped unload the whale.