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Whales struggle brought people together

The official word on the mass pilot whale stranding last Friday at Kalapaki Beach is as expected:

“The preliminary necropsy results showed no obvious cause of death.”

“At this time, we have not yet determined a reason for the stranding.”

“The Navy confirmed that there was no mid-frequency active sonar in the area at the time of the stranding. The Navy also confirmed there were no in-water explosives used in the area.”

For those who believe military activity had a role in the deaths of five pilot whales, the results provided in this initial report are disappointing, but not surprising. And, it’s likely there never will be an absolute cause of death, nor will there be a definitive reason for the stranding of several pilot whales. Whales have been beaching themselves for centuries, and strandings of pilot whales are more common.

In fact, one kupuna on Kauai called TGI to report that back in the 1950s, when he was a young man, several pilot whales beached themselves at Anini Beach. The whales were simply buried somewhere nearby and that was that. And, he said, it had nothing to do with military sonar, but it’s just what whales occasionally do.

So, while the cause and source of what happened to the five dead pilot whales may never be known, we do know this from what happened last Friday at Kalapaki Beach: People who were there cared. They did not sit back and watch. They were not distant. They did not act like this did not matter to them.

It did.

Strangers came together and pushed these 4,000-pound whales back into the water. Over and over and over again. Visitors rushed from their nearby timeshares and hotel rooms to join with locals in running to whales, pushing them out, and trying to keep them from returning. Groups, despite dangers of being hit by a whale’s powerful tail, despite warnings of tiger sharks, despite being urged to stay away by some officials, waded into the water, giving them all, some swimming, some on paddle boards, directing the whales away from shore.

In some cases, they succeeded. In others, they did not. Either way, no one gave up. They kept trying until the whales were in deep water.

It was tragic to watch these amazing whales struggle and sad to see two of them die that morning, and learn that more whales died later. It was heartbreaking for some to witness these majestic creatives floundering on the shore. At one point, a man stood alone, trying to push a whale back to the water. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t do it. What mattered was, he tried.

It was, at the same time, uplifting to see the passion, the courage and the determination of so many who did all they could to save the whales. It was touching to see how much people cared. They cried for the whales. They prayed for them. They kneeled next to them, touched them, talked to them, comforted them. It was, one woman told TGI at the time, the same as losing a family member, because these whales belonged to her family.

While the cause of the deaths of these whales, what drove them to beach themselves, may never be known, we do know that last Friday at Kalapaki Beach, we saw the good in many people. We saw their passion. We saw their courage. We saw people coming together to help dying creatures. We saw a bond formed.

When one whale, after being pushed by men, swam free to deep water, people cheered. It was beautiful.

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