The baby humpback whale that stranded itself off East Honolulu in January was very sick, according to scientists. They explained what they found, just before a memorial service for the whale in Aina Haina Friday night.
It was just before 4 p.m. on Jan. 14 when a fisherman noticed a baby humpback struggling near the surf spot known as Secrets. By 9 p.m., the whale was dead.
Scientists found it had enlarged lymph nodes, lung problems and was basically, terminally ill.
"It was fighting a systemic infection, or an infection all throughout its body," said David Schofield, the Pacific Islands stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He said if the whale was healthy, or if other whales were spotted in the area, they would have set it free.
"We had two veterinarians on scene, we had probably five marine mammal experts on the beach and we would have done everything possible. But unfortunately, it was a hopeless case," Schofield added.
People who witnessed the events that evening and watched the whale struggle to its death say it was a very traumatic experience.
"That couldn't be our last thing we saw, was the whale. So we needing to have some kind of coming together as a community to return the ashes back to sea to get balance again and to really begin the process of healing," said Tim Mason, pastor at Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church, which hosted a community meeting and a Hawaiian cultural ceremony for people to learn more about what happened that evening.
Hawaiian cultural practitioner Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu said, "It was a way to honor its place in and amongst us and to remind all of us it's important to live in harmony and balance with nature and the environment."
"It makes me remember how lucky we are to live Hawaii, where people value the land, they value the animals that live in the ocean and on the land," said Steve Pherigo, who attended the meeting and ceremony.