Oil tanker strikes whale in valdez harbor

The body of a dead humpback whale was tied to a buoy near the oil terminal in Valdez Harbor Tuesday night after it was struck by an oil tanker on Monday.

Federal officials are still not sure exactly what happened, but environmentalists are concerned about the loss of an endangered giant of the sea.

In the more than 30 years that oil tankers have been coming to Valdez – and during more than 20,000 tanker visits to the oil terminal – people say they’ve never seen this happen before.

“It was struck by an oil tanker and carried into Valdez,” said Sheila McLean, a public information specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It happened as the tanker Kodiak was pulling into port. As escort vessels were guiding the ship to the dock, crewmen on a line boat spotted the body of a dead whale at the tanker’s bow.

The whale is now off the bow of the ship, but it’s still in Valdez," McLean said.

“We do know that the whale was struck by the ship, but we don’t know the condition of the whale when it was struck.”

Officials aren’t sure if the whale was alive or dead when it was struck by the ship. The National Marine Fisheries Service was called in to investigate.

Federal officials believe the whale is an endangered adult humpback.

Long-time environmentalist and protector of Prince William Sound Stan Stephens says he can’t remember this happening before.

“It’s very unusual because usually the noise from a tanker or the tugs or other traffic around them will keep them from getting hit,” he said.

But he says humpbacks often come to the surface and go into a sleep-like state, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the crew of the tanker didn’t see it.

“It’s really sorry to see the loss of a humpback because they are very precious, dear animals,” Stephens said. “It’s too bad that this has occurred, but again I can see how it can happen.”

A spokesman for SeaRiver Maritime, the Texas-based owner of the tanker, says there’s no evidence the ship actually struck the whale and dragged it into the harbor.

But federal officials say they have no doubt that this giant of the sea and a giant oil tanker had a sad encounter.

Federal officials say it would be too expensive to send a team to determine exactly how and when the whale died. They are planning to tow the body of the whale out to sea and sink it.

[Source: Michael Hughes “Today’s News”]

A work crew pulls away from a 25- to 30-foot whale impaled on the bow of the Carnival Cruise Lines
ship Summit after helping attach a tow line to the carcass Aug. 19, 2006 in Seward. Officials did not
know whether a collision with the ship killed the whale or if it was already dead when the ship
snagged it. The crew felt nothing.
Photos courtesy of CAROL GRISWOLD

Anchorage Daily News
A cruise ship pulled into port Saturday in Seward with a dead whale pinned to its bow.
Federal officials are investigating but say it does not appear the ship’s operators did
anything wrong.
The crew of the towering 2,000-passenger ship Summit said they were surprised to
discover they had snagged a whale somewhere after leaving Disenchantment Bay near
Yakutat. They felt no bump during their voyage, a company spokesman said.
The whale, estimated to be 25 to 30 feet long, was spotted by longshoremen after the
vessel was tied up at the Seward dock, according to federal investigators.
The whale was tentatively identified as a humpback. It was towed by a tugboat Saturday
afternoon to a beach in nearby Thumb Cove. A necropsy has been scheduled for today to
help determine whether the whale was struck by the Summit or was already dead and
floating when it was scooped up by the ship.
The whale was dangling on the bulbous bow that protrudes from the ship’s hull below the
waterline, said Scott Adams, a Seward-based enforcement officer with the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We have no knowledge if it struck this vessel or another vessel or just died of some
genetic issue,” Adams said. "It doesn’t look like the result of any predatory attack."
Humpback whales are an endangered species protected under several federal laws, said
Barbara Mahoney, an Alaska marine mammal specialist with the National Marine
Fisheries Service.
At least two have been struck and killed by tour boats in Glacier Bay National Park in the
past decade, she said. But a boat crew that is not pursuing or harassing whales, and that
reports any accident, is not likely to suffer repercussions, federal officials said.
“These boats are big enough that they don’t even feel a bump,” Mahoney said.
The Summit is a 91,000-ton ship the length of three football fields – with several end
zones thrown in. It is owned by Celebrity Cruises, which advertises that passengers on its
Alaska voyages will encounter “untamed wildlife” and "unspoiled ports of call."
Celebrity spokesman Michael Sheehan said the company notified federal and state
agencies and the Seward police after discovering the whale at the dock. He called the
chance of striking a healthy whale and then perfectly balancing the carcass on the ship’s
bow "exceedingly unlikely."
The timing of the incident is potentially awkward, with a statewide vote in Tuesday’s
primary on a measure that would impose taxes and new regulations on the cruise
industry. The industry has mounted an expensive campaign to oppose the measure.
Gershon Cohen, a sponsor of the proposal, said the measure wouldn’t necessarily have
prevented a collision between ship and whale – though an observer that ships would be
required to carry might be a help, he said.
He cited a related marine mammal concern – a precipitous drop in the seal population in
Yakutat’s Disenchantment Bay, where the Summit stopped to see the calving Hubbard
Glacier before heading to Seward. The fast-moving glacier has drawn many ships to a
seal-pupping area in recent years, he said.

Daily News reporter Tom Kizzia can be reached at tkizzia@adn.com.

Humpback is amongst the most delicious whale variety.

Captain Lee
Don’t tell me that your current employer does not provide you with a nutritious meal,are you telling me that you have to resort to eating humpback whale??? if that is the case you might want to try the native seal in alaska, I heard it taste like chicken
they go good with grilled polar bear paws for a side dish and antelope soup for starters with a penguin souffle for dessert

now if the chef could just do something for an alaskan vegetable you would be all set

A seal walks in a bar. Bartender asks “What will you have Mr. Seal?” Mr. Seal replies- “Anything but a Canadian Club!”

I work in Valdez Harbor and was on one of the docking tugs for the Kodiak the day the whale was discovered lodged on bow. The lineboat operator stated that the whale was already in a state of decay. The local papers reported the incident as “Tanker strikes and kills whale.” Funny how things are blown out of context.

cpt2times, spent some time up there a few years back… Media (and particularly the “citizen groups”) don’t rely on facts. Heck, neither do some employees of Alyeska… Had a crazy lady tell our pumpman “your officers are trying to kill you, you should walk off the ship.” Then threatened to call the everyone from the USCG to the governor on us. This because a sensor glitch made her think a cargo tank had 10% O2 in it! So we think its over before we leave, then on our return trip our agent said that some group of concerned citizens were concerned about our ability to operate safely in Alaskan waters. WHHHAAATTTTT!

Yeah, its sad.