top of page

February 21st - Sperm Whale Stranding

On February 21st, we were notified by the SCNDR aerial survey team about a deceased whale in nearshore waters of South Carolina (location undisclosed). Our team worked closely with the NMFS Southeast Stranding Network to gather more information on species and coordinating a response.

SCDNR law enforcement quickly responded to the scene to collect more pictures to help identify the species. Based on their photos, we were able to confirm it was a sperm whale. Because sperm whales are an endangered species, a response was critical to gather more data. While sperm whales can be found offshore, this is only the fourth documented stranding of a sperm whale in South Carolina.

Due to where the whale stranded, logistics of a response were complicated and quickly changing. A multi-agency response was coordinated for the following day, including team members from LMMN, NOAA, Blue World Research Institute, FWC, and SCDNR.

The whale was stranded on a sand bank and was never fully exposed, even at dead low tide. Our teams geared up in waders to collect external measurements and observations and collect as many samples as we could before the tide became too high and it was no longer safe for us to be out there. This was a 43 ft sub-adult/adult male.

This is an ongoing case and more info will be provided when possible.

Thank you to Blair Mase (NOAA), Lauren Rust (LMMN), Nicole Principe (LMMN), Bonnie Ertel (NOAA/CSS), Colin Perkins-Taylor (NOAA/CSS), Megan Stolen (BWRI), Nadia Lentz (FWC), and SCDNR law enforcement for all the help on this very interesting (and difficult) response! *All work and photos collected under permit.

More Info on Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus):

  • They are the largest toothed whale and can grow up to 60 feet in length

  • They are incredible divers! They can dive more than 3,000 feet in depth and hold their breath for up to 2 hours while hunting for squid. However, their average dive lasts about 45 mins.

  • They have a widespread distribution and can be found in oceans around the world, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. They prefer deep waters but may also inhabit continental shelves and can be spotted near coastlines.

  • They are social animals and are commonly found in groups. They also sleep vertically in the water column!

50 views0 comments


bottom of page