Known as the deepest diving mammal on earth, these unique cetaceans are found in waters over 3000 ft deep and around the globe, but particularly in the Eastern Tropics. Imagine my surprise to find one on a remote west coast beach on Flores Island in Clayoquot Sound!

Initially, the report came to me through a Facebook post.  A hiker had reported a stranded killer whale at Cow Bay on the Wildside Trail. I called in a huge favour from my then-new boyfriend, Lennie and asked him to drop me off at the beach. As a trade-off he could go fishing while he waited!

As soon as I reached the carcass I knew it was NOT an orca. The rostrum (nose) and dorsal fin told me it was not an orca and despite having never seen a beaked whale in person, I knew that’s what this had to be!

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The rostrum of the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale – too pointed to be an Orca (Note: I have dug the sand out to see the shape better)
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The small dorsal fin that told me this was not an Orca

I extensively photographed the carcass and contacted Ken Balcomb upon returning home. A collective group of marine biologists confirmed through the images that it was a 22ft long female Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.

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A portion of the tail fluke
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Full body – 22 Ft long
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Blowhole
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Possible vessel strike – Prop like marks across the back. Unable to tell if this occurred before or after death.

Large amount of decomposition and feeding had already occurred. Eagles had to be scared off the site to visit it and wolf tracks could clearly be seen in the sand. There was a large amount of media about this event and interestingly enough – a similar stranding of another Cuvier’s beaked whale in Haida Gwaii around the same time.

CBC

Metropolis News

Globe and Mail – Video (Info on Haida Gwaii and Ahousaht Strandings)

I visited this area 15 months after the carcass was initially found, and as expected there was no sign of it. I was hoping to find some bones in the dunes at the top of the beach but it has likely been buried by the shifting sands.

Despite being deceased and decomposed, this individual touched me deeply – Being so far away from it’s home waters when it came to it’s final resting place – It still provided a great resource for local wildlife in a never-ending circle of life.

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Written August 19th, 2016

Event Occurred May 17th, 2015

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