Whale Carcass Removed from Waimānalo, Blessing Held as Part of Cultural Protocol
A 25- to 35-ton humpback whale carcass was removed from Waimānalo Bay Beach Park on Oʻahu today.
The carcass was first spotted in the ocean off the beach yesterday morning, along with at least three large tiger sharks that were feeding on it. Overnight, as expected, the whale’s body washed into the shore break.
50 people, including many from agencies involved in the response to the incident, participated in a Hawaiian blessing and pule (prayer) from Kalani Kalima of Waimānalo. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources reports that others on scene were from the community or visitors to O‘ahu.
They watched and listened as Kalima described the cultural importance of blessing koholā (whale), as part of the circle of life. “Native Hawaiians have a strong closeness to the natural world and aumakua, which can take the form of animals, like whales and sharks,” according to a DLNR press release.
There was a multi-agency response to the incident, which included county, state, and federal agencies. Heavy equipment from the C&C departments of Parks and Recreation and Facilities Maintenance, along with the US Air Force at Bellows, helped move the carcass from the shoreline into trucks. Private companies also donated time and equipment.
“Seeing the city, state, and federal agencies all working together, brings back harmony that’s been lacking in government,” Kalima said. “It allows people to believe, you know what, that there’s still good and caring people in government.”
State officials say the whale was buried on private land.
The City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation is keeping the park closed today. The decision to keep the park closed until tomorrow is based on the potential continued presence of sharks in the water. While crews were able to remove most of the body, there is some tissue remaining in the ocean and possibly on the beach. Shark signs will stay up and Ocean Safety Lifeguards will continue to warn beach goers until sharks are no longer observed in the area.
Experts believe the whale was either an adult or sub-adult and probably died within the past week. If possible, they will try to determine its cause of death. A small number of humpback whales perish each season in Hawai‘i’s waters, often due to disease or other natural causes, according to the DLNR.