Whale carcass hauled to Waimanalo landfill

55-foot carcass attracting sharks, officials say

Published  2:06 PM HST Oct 26, 2013
HONOLULU -

A massive whale carcass that was deemed a safety hazard was taken to a Waimanalo landfill.

The effort to dispose of the animal was much harder than originally expected, officials said.

“If we had done the normal course of action and towed the whale 20 miles offshore, it was more than a 90 percent chance that it was going to end up back on shore,” said Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila.

The carcass was attracting sharks, so the DLNR hired a contractor to remove it. Once on land at the Heeia Kea Boat Harbor, it drew a large crowd, but getting rid of the 55-foot, badly-decomposed sperm whale wasn't going to be easy.

Two 60,000-pound tow straps snapped in the process of hauling the carcass out of the water, officials said.

After determining that disposing the whale in one piece wasn't going to be possible, contractors resorted to cutting up the carcass in pieces to take to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill.

Researchers determined it was an adult male sperm whale that had been dead for several weeks. Researchers collected samples of teeth and bones to know more about the whale.

“We were also able to collect some organ samples, surprising considering his condition.  And we’re able to collect muscle samples for diving studies and genetics to determine what population of sperm whales he came from,” said Kristi West from Hawaii Pacific University’s Whale and Dolphin Stranding Program.

Scientists said it is the second sperm whale found dead in Hawaiian waters in 2013, and the reason remains unknown.

There are no obvious injuries to the whale, which officials said means it didn't die from being hit by a boat.

Researchers are hoping they will be able to gain some positive scientific information that will help them learn more about this species.

“They are an endangered species, so we do want to take advantage of the opportunity that the stranding brings,” said West.

The whale was spotted Wednesday off Kaneohe Bay, and then drifted near Kualoa Beach Park Saturday before being towed to Heeia Kea.

Lifeguards at Kualoa were advising beachgoers to stay out of the water after sharks were spotted in the area Saturday morning.

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