A severely injured humpback whale that travelled all the way from B.C. to Hawaii is believed to be dead.
The whale — known as ‘Moon’ — was likely injured after a ship strike off the coast of northern B.C. She used just her pectoral fins to swim to the breeding grounds of Hawaii.
“Not only was she likely in considerable pain, but she had somehow migrated thousands of miles across the North Pacific to her Hawaiian breeding grounds without being able to propel herself with her tail,” says Janie Wray of the North Coast Cetacean Society.
Moon's entire back was curved into an unnatural “S” shape, making her tail almost completely immobile.
Back in December, a humpback researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society suspected Moon would die.
“There’s no way she will be able to make it back because she’s so emaciated,” said Jackie Hildering during an interview. “She was breast-stroking the whole way. It’s a tragedy, but it shows the tenacity of their inherent need to migrate.”
During an interview with Glacier Media on Jan. 30, Wray said she suspects Moon has died as she has not been seen recently.
“The last sighting that anyone has ever heard of her was around Dec. 11,” she says. “She was in pretty dire condition.”
While it’s difficult to confirm, Wray spoke to whale researchers in Hawaii who confirmed the mammal has not been seen.
"I think likely; it isn't confirmed but likely," she says.
Her death, while sad, is a sense of relief for Wray.
"I can't stop thinking about her every day, wondering how she's doing and wondering if she's still alive,” says Wray. “It would be a sense of relief for all of us that have spent time with her to know that, that she's no longer suffering.”
For Wray, she'd like to see Moon's death spark change.
"[I'm] hoping that her story can somehow make a difference, you know, regarding vessel speeds and awareness to whales in our in our area,” she says.
Moon's 55-day journey to Hawaii left her completely emaciated with excessive loads of whale lice.
"I think she really gives us insight to how remarkable whales are and you know, how they are a creature of culture,” says Wray.