In an amazing feat, a humpback whale with a broken back just finished swimming more than 3,000 miles. The whale, known as Moon, swam from the west coast of Canada to Maui, only able to do the breaststroke.
According to a post from the non-profit group BC Whales, Moon was first spotted in Maui on Dec. 1.
The researchers were able to identify Moon after looking at her injured body. Her injuries appears to be the result of getting hit by a ship. The injury was first noticed in early September when a drone snapped pics of the whale’s contorted spine, appearing to look like a contorted ‘S’ going down her dorsal spine.
Per reports from Janie Wray, the CEO and lead researcher for BC Whales, her injury made Moon swim oddly to complete her journey.
“Without the use of her tail, she was literally doing the breaststroke to make that migration. It’s absolutely amazing,” she told reporters. “But it also just breaks your heart.”
During this time of year, many whales make the journey to tropical waters for breeding purposes. Sadly, according to Wray, Moon will likely not return to Canadian waters as she’ll probably die here.
“The harrowing images of her twisted body stirred us all,” the non-profit wrote in the post. “She was likely in considerable pain yet she migrated thousands of miles without being able to propel herself with her tail. Her journey left her completely emaciated and covered in whale lice as a testament to her severely depreciated condition. “
Injured humpback whale highlights continuing problem of marine traffic striking wildlife
The organization also said Moon’s perseverance to make the trip showed “the lengths whales will go to follow patterns of behavior” and their commitment to traditions.
Whale researchers believe these animals create their own traditions and practices that can last for generations. For years, the marine giants have been known to update feeding techniques, create new songs, and improve communication methods.
As for Moon, BC Whales says she was spotted handing down the tradition of swimming between feeding and breeding grounds to a calf back.
Now, the group hopes boaters will be familiar with the best methods to keep from hitting marine animals.
Moon’s crossing of the Pacific and her inevitable death is a strong reminder of the ongoing dangers for the animals. Today, marine traffic sadly continues to strike these gentle giants and other marine animals.
“We will never truly understand the strength it took for Moon to take on what is regrettably her last journey. But it is on us to respect such tenacity within another species and recognize that vessel strikes lead to a devastating end,” the group wrote in the post.