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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 14, 2004

Sperm whale's carcass beached

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A salvage vessel today will attempt to remove a dead 45-foot sperm whale that drifted onto the reef flat about 500 yards southeast of Kapapa Island in Kane'ohe Bay.

State and federal officials considered moving the decomposing carcass last night, but decided to wait until high tide late this morning because of better visibility, said Brad Ryon, resource manager with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Ryon said the carcass weighs between 25 and 35 tons and the whale appears to have been dead for more than a month.

"It's pretty rotted," he said.

When the whale is towed off the reef, the carcass will be taken about 20 miles north of the island, where currents should take the remains away from the state, he said. Ryon said the hope is the carcass will not break apart during the move.

"The largest challenge is not just the size of the beast, but the actual location and depth. It's in some very shallow water," he said.

Meanwhile, ocean users are advised to stay away from the area because of the potential for sharks. Ryon said there were no shark sightings yesterday, but "there were several pretty large new shark bites" noted yesterday morning.

Jeff Walters of the Department of Land and Natural Resources said the whale, of a type that was depicted in the book and movie "Moby Dick," has a large head that weighs several tons and that makes the removal more difficult.

Sperm whales are on the endangered species list.