“The main thing we looked at was stomach contents to help us better understand the whale’s diet. We did discover that the whale had not foraged for some time,” Professor Kristi West, who leads the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology's Marine Mammal Stranding Lab, said in a statement.
“We also looked at exposed bone, which indicates this whale was probably 50 feet [15 meters] long.”
Whales play an important role in Hawaiian history, so academics are also attempting to understand the whale’s beaching from a cultural perspective.
“From a cultural standpoint we always look at the whale’s best interest, as they not only represent a large marine mammal, but in Hawaiian culture they represent our kupuna who traveled from far, distant places,” said Noelani Puniwai, UH Mānoa assistant professor of Hawaiian studies. “They are amazing messengers, as we can learn so much from them and help us to determine our own roles in the environment.”
Whales can become stranded on land for a number of reasons, most of which are of no concern. However, mass whale strandings are another deal. A recent study looked into this increasingly common phenomenon and discovered exactly how naval sonar can drive freak mass strandings.