If you were asked, “Which animals rule the ocean?” you might say “sharks” because of their ferocious nature and their prevalence in pop culture. The reality, though, is that killer whales are the big kahunas. Even the most aggressive types of sharks try to avoid getting in an orca’s way whenever they can!
But just because killer whales are at the top of the food chain in the deep blue sea doesn’t mean they can’t find themselves in life-or-death situations. Even the hardiest of orcas aren’t impervious to danger.
That was exactly the case for one female orca who found herself stranded on the rocky coast of Hartley Bay in British Columbia, Canada. A team of rescuers knew they needed to step in, but would they be able to help her in time?
Most of us assume that sharks are the biggest and baddest creatures in the sea, but killer whales are the ones that truly dominate. Still, even though they’re the ocean’s ultimate apex predator, they aren’t invulnerable to harm.
That was no more apparent than one afternoon off the coast of Hartley Bay in British Columbia, Canada. Some researchers were sailing when they came upon a sight that shocked them to their core…
Right there on the rocky shore was a baby orca—and she was stranded on the rocks. How she’d managed to get stuck was beyond them, but one thing was clear: she would surely die if they didn’t get help… and fast!
The researchers quickly called experts Hermann Meuter and Marvin Robinson at Cetacea Lab, a local non-profit research station situated along the north coast of British Columbia. The men immediately prepared for their mission.
Their team loaded up their boats as soon as they could; they knew that time wasn’t on their side. Killer whales and other marine life were drawn to that particular area because of the plentiful amount of plankton that drew the fish they loved to hunt and eat.
Once the team reached the area where the orca was stranded, they hurriedly unloaded all of their supplies. Their first priority was to set up the pumps so they could try to prevent the killer whale from suffocating.
Marvin was the first to climb to the top of the rocks; he needed to see how they could access the orca. It was clear the poor animal was struggling for air, but there was a problem: she was trapped in a tight spot that was inaccessible to the machinery that would allow them to save her quickly and efficiently.
Hermann then stepped onto the rocks and cautiously moved closer to the orca. He carried a large plastic bin that he hoped to use in order to pour water over the ailing killer whale. Still, he had to be careful not to slip and injure himself.
As more rescue workers surrounded the orca and covered her in wet blankets to keep her from drying out, something amazing happened. The little killer whale was crying out loudly, and members of her pod started circling the area. They refused to leave her side!
At first, the team was puzzled: how did the orca find herself wedged in such a tight position between these rocks? They theorized that her pod must have been hunting harbor seals when the tide left, leaving this particular orca stranded.
Surprisingly, the baby orca seemed to calm down as the rescue team layered blankets and tarps over her. She was likely extremely weak and fatigued, but it was almost as if she knew they were there to help.
Using the tubing and pump systems they brought, the crew started to spray the stranded orca with water. It was important that they kept her as wet as possible—they had eight hours until the tide came back in. Her life was in their hands.
The crew made sure to limit the number of team members who actually climbed onto the rocks. This was imperative to keeping the orca calm—as well as lowering the risk for their own danger. Meanwhile, the wet blankets kept her cool and comfortable.
Even though the team had a water pump that provided a constant flow of cold liquid, it wasn’t enough. Orca’s live in water, so in order to ensure her safety, they needed to dump as much of it as they could on her at all times.
By then the orca had been out of the water for several hours, and the team worked hard to keep her alive. They anxiously awaited the next high tide. Though the baby killer whale was in a much better condition than before, they weren’t out of the woods yet.
All the while, the orca’s pod was still circling the shore where she was stranded, and the poor animal called out to them every so often. As the tide began to come back in, the rescuers worried if the killer whale had been out of her natural habitat for too long or if she was injured…
Thankfully, the tide finally became high enough that it started to cover the little orca. As the water level rose, the team removed their equipment and blankets. They wanted to be sure that they maintained as little interaction with her as possible—she was a wild animal, after all!
The team had just spent the last several hours desperately trying to keep the orca alive, and it was time to see if their efforts proved successful. They hoped that the tide would rise high enough that the orca could wriggle out on her own.
The water eventually rose to a level where the orca could breathe on her own. She was exhausted from the whole ordeal, but rescuers hoped they had done enough to provide her with the energy she needed to return to her pod. Would she make it out?
It goes without saying that orcas are truly magnificent creatures, but even they need a little help when they find themselves in a tight spot. Watch and see if the stranded orca was finally able to rejoin her pod in Hartley Bay…
Thanks to the hard workers from the Cetacea Lab in Canada, this orca was able to return to her pod!
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