It looked like a scene right out of Free Willy. On the morning of July 29th, 2021 the captain and crew of sea vessel “The Steadfast” spotted a 20-foot orca just four or five feet from the tide line at Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.
They contacted the Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who instructed the crew to keep the animal wet till an officer could arrive at the rocky beach. The NOAA fisheries authorized the use of a seawater pump to keep the whale wet and prevent birds from attacking it. Soon, local Alaskans came to help, bringing buckets, a water pump, and hoses to make sure the Orca was okay till the high tide came to help push the whale back to sea.
The 20-foot mammal became visibly livelier as locals splashed water on it, even calling out its gratitude. From the sea, bystanders heard the answering calls of worried whales from the Orca’s pod. It would take six hours for the tide to come in and authorities estimated that the whale would be able to float on the tide and move to sea by 5.30 pm. However, the Alaskan Wildlife Troopers and an officer with the NOAA were able to watch the whale swim away by 3 pm. The NOAA accompanied the animal out to sea and were able to watch as she dove under to re-join her pod.
Bystanders took videos of the whale, which they posted to social media platforms and received a host of good wishes and prayers from viewers. There are two theories about how the Orca came to be so far inland. The NOAA’s theory is that the whale may have been chasing prey while another theory is that a nearby earthquake affected the tides. The NOAA is still using pictures to determine whether the Orca was injured, but the residents of Prince Albert Islands are just happy that she made it home. They had named her Cassandra.