Traditional burial at sea is given to dead whale

A whale of a type rarely seen in Hawaii beached itself on Maui

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Thursday, April 25, 2002

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> A whale rarely seen in Hawaiian waters was buried at sea about 6 1/2 miles off Maalaea Harbor yesterday afternoon, after a necropsy was performed on it to determine the cause of death.

The Blainville's beaked whale died Tuesday morning after swimming onto Kamaole Beach Park I.

The whale, 15 feet long and weighing about 1,200 to 1,500 pounds, had no apparent major injuries but kept on returning to the beach despite human efforts to guide it to deeper water, a lifeguard said.

Most of the whale's body went aboard a state boat for the burial, but the head of the whale was taken by federal marine officials to the mainland for examination, including a determination whether it might have suffered any inner ear damage, said Kahu Charles Maxwell.

Maxwell, a native Hawaiian cultural specialist who performed a spiritual ceremony before the whale left the harbor, said he was pleased that federal officials respected native cultural practices and buried the whale at sea.

He said once examination is completed, the head is to be brought back to Maui to undergo a similar sea burial.

Maxwell said in Hawaiian spiritual custom, the whale is part of the essence of the ocean and should return to its origin.

"It's the best we could do considering the circumstances," he said.

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin

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