Humpback named Moon travels from Canada to Hawaii with a broken spine
A humpback whale with a broken spine defied all odds when it completed a 3,000-mile journey from Canada to Hawaii doing the breaststroke.
Nicknamed Moon, the whale was spotted off the coast of British Colombia with a crooked lower body that researchers believe was caused by a boat striking the animal.
The injury did not stop Moon from completing her annual migration to warmer waters, but images of the whale off the coast of Maui show the tiresome journey left it emaciated and covered in whale lice.
While researchers with the Pacific Whale Foundation, which has been tracking Moon for a decade, are relieved she made it to Hawaii, they note this is where she will likely die.
Moon was first spotted on September 7 by the Fin Island Research Station, which noticed its lower body was bent in an unnatural 'S' shape that was expected from the dorsal fin to her fluke.
The team unleashed a drone for a closer look, revealing the severe spinal injury.
'The harrowing images of her twisted body stirred us all,' BC Whales shared in a social media post.
'She was likely in considerable pain yet she migrated thousands of miles without being able to propel herself with her tail.'
While the size of Moon is unknown, female humpback whales can grow up to 49 feet long and weigh around 35 tons.
The whale has taken the same path every year for the past decade, researchers said, which is likely an inherited behavior.
When Moon appeared in Canadian waters in 2020, researchers were elated to see her with a calf
But in September, researchers noticed something different.
'This is the stark reality of a vessel strike, and it speaks to the extended suffering that whales can endure afterwards,' BC Whales wrote.
'It also speaks to their instinct and culture: the lengths whales will go to follow patterns of behavior.'
While Moon completed her yearly migration, researchers noted that this would be the last time she makes the epic journey.
'Tenacity and tragedy. Moon.. will not make it back,' reads the BC Whales' post.
'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.'
Janie Wray, the CEO and lead researcher for BC Whales, told The Guardian that scientists would rather euthanize the whale to end her suffering but fear the 'a cocktail of toxic substances' could poison marine life that would feast on her remains.
'If she was on land, we could intervene,' Wray told the outlet.
'But because she's in the ocean, and because of her size, there is nothing that we can do. And that just breaks your heart even further into pieces.'
Every year, up to 20,000 whales die from lethal collisions with vessels.