A 65-foot-long sperm whale was found stranded in the shallows near Ningbo, China - and luckily a team of experts and volunteers gathered together to help the whale back to sea. However, it took a long and challenging 20 hours for this dedicated team to get this mammal back to where it belongs. Here's what happened.
Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator there is. The enormous animals got their name after the waxy substance, spermaceti, found in their heads, which is an oil sac that assists these mammals in focusing sound. These deep-sea hunters look for their prey far past a mile underwater, making them used to a specific cold temperature. It was alarming when the whale was found at the shore when the temperature was around 66 degrees Fahrenheit. It is uncommon to see these whales twisting and turning around the shallows. But last week, a group of fishermen spotted the animal flapping its tail, stuck and unable to move its body.
Strandings happen for many reasons; they might get lost or make mistakes, leading these animals far away from where they should be. Bruce Mate, a professor and past director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center, reported that stranded sperm whales are quite complicated and that they don't always survive even if they have been rescued. "Good on them for making a noble effort in trying to get this animal back to sea, but the odds are quite difficult," Mate told Live Science. The 65-foot-long whale was found lying on its side, potentially suffocating due to dehydration or even under its own weight. Keep in mind, on average, a male sperm whale can weigh around 90,000 pounds and a female sperm whale around 30,000 pounds. Due to its size, the whale found in Ningbo was most likely an adult male.
Volunteers and local authorities banded together to rescue the sperm whale, using buckets of water to douse the animal while waiting for the tide to rise. Almost 20 hours later, at 10 p.m., the water had grown enough for the team to pull the whale into the ocean via tugboat. Luckily, the sperm whale could swim on its own once the authorities cut off the ropes attached to the animal.