Gray whale remains stranded in Turnagain Arm

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) For the second day in a row, a gray whale fought to free itself from treacherous mud flats near the head of Turnagain Arm.

By low tide on Tuesday afternoon, the animal had worked its way about two miles downstream from the channel where it lay grounded all day Monday.

The location, a few hundred yards off a pullout near Mile 86 of the Seward Highway, was deep enough to cover all but the animal's back, said Les Cockerham of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It's still very thin and acting very weak,'' said Alaska SeaLife Center head veterinarian Pam Tuomi. This may very well be an animal that was debilitated before it stranded itself.''

Gray whales migrate by the thousands each spring up the West Coast on a 5,000-mile journey to feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas.

It's not clear that people could do anything to save the whale, Tuomi said.

We don't have as much medical background to begin with (on gray whales) and the therapeutic options are very limited,'' she added. And approaching this animal in Turnagain Arm is extremely dangerous for personnel.''

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