August 18, 2011

Yurok Tribe mourns gray whale

Yurok Tribe Mourns Passing of Gray Whale in Klamath River

By Dan BacherThe female gray whale that drew considerable public attention by staying the greater part of this summer in the lower Klamath River died of natural causes in the early morning of Tuesday, August 16.

The 40-foot long whale beached herself around 6:30 p.m. Monday and perished at 4:19 a.m. Tuesday. The cetacean’s health had been deteriorating in the past two days, most likely because of the lengthy stay outside of its natural, saline habitat, according to a news release from the Yurok Tribe. The whale was spotted in the river in late June; the seven-week stay is believed to be the longest period of time that a whale has ventured outside of its normal saltwater habitat in California waters.

“To have such a large animal in our presence for so long was a great gift, but now nature has taken its course,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr. “It is truly unfortunate that she didn’t try to make it back to her home.”

This is not the first whale to swim up a river or estuary in California. “Humphrey the Whale,” a humpback whale, ventured up the Sacramento River near Rio Vista in 1984. “Delta and Dawn,” a mother humpback whale and her calf, went up the Sacramento into the Sacramento Deepwater Channel as far as West Sacramento in early May 2007. Fortunately, all three of those whales eventually returned to the ocean.
Comment:  For more on Indians and whales, see Queequeg the Indian?, Whales vs. Ocean Pollution, and Inupiat Extra in Everybody Loves Whales.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Whale’s burial ‘like a rock concert’

A large backhoe hauled the whale onto the riverbank above the high tide line and dug a pit, O'Rourke said. After singing a song and saying a prayer to send the whale on its journey to the afterlife, tribal members turned over the carcass to scientists for a necropsy. A burial was to follow.

“It was like a rock concert,” said Reweti Wiki, a Maori from New Zealand who is a partner in the Requa Inn bed and breakfast overlooking the river. “Early on, it was a novel experience, with people happy and intrigued. But as it dragged on, people became concerned. Eventually it turned into a tragedy. As it moved past normal, there was a sense that people were visiting to say their final farewells, or wish she would do something to improve her situation.”