A sperm whale washed up on Paraparaumu Beach brought out crowds of onlookers yesterday.
Hundreds of people flocked to the beach to touch and have photographs taken with the 15-metre, 40-tonne giant, which beached in the sand in front of the Kapiti Boating Club.
Local iwi would take the jaw bone using knives, saws and hooks before it was buried and would also name the whale.
Kaumatua Don Te Maipi performed a karakia and said it was like a funeral. He was delighted so many people were pouring on to the beach to show their respects.
Mr Te Maipi said the whale's death was spiritually tied to the death of Bruce Mansell, a prominent local who was the managing director of Coastlands. He passed away yesterday.
A DOC spokesman said they were hoping to move the whale up the beach using diggers today, as the tide washing in would start to bury it in the beach.
The carcass had now been cordoned by Kapiti Coast District Council due to health risks.
Te Papa Museum marine mammal collection manager Anton van Helden said the whale was freshly dead and had possibly died on the beach or very close to shore.
He believed it was an older adult male.
"There is considerable wear on the teeth and a lot of white scarring on the skin," van Helden said.
"It probably died of suffocation due to being stranded but what caused it to come in is another equation.
"They may suffer the same old age conditions as we do such as heart disease and arthritis, which could contribute to the cause of death."
Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Brent Tandy said the whale was an adult, and one of the biggest he had dealt with.
"We’ve had a few whales wash up in the past, but none on this scale," he said.
A local fisherman said he had seen a whale thrashing around between the shore and Kapiti Island over the past few days.
Kapiti Marine Charters’ Ross Leger came across the whale just after 6am when he was checking on weather for the day’s sailing across to Kapiti Island and believed it had stranded just after midnight this morning.
He recalled a stranding at Paekakariki about 10 years ago and said there was a major stranding of about 18 orca in 1952.
Waikanae's Damian Parata, of Whakarongotai marae, said a dead sperm whale washed up on Peka Peka Beach eight years ago after a stormy night. He said that whale was about 17 years old.
Kapiti mayor Jenny Rowan said it was "a humbling experience to be alongside such a magnificent creature that lived nearby that we hardly ever see."
John Bole, of Paraparaumu Beach, brought his children to have a look at the whale, after seeing it out the window when he rose. He said it was not there at 9pm the night before.
Tessa Mackay, 9, managed to touch the whale before DOC cordoned the body off.
"It is pretty warm. It is sad for such a huge animal," she said.
Her father, Iain Mackay said it was quite exciting as well as sad.
"I have never been this close to a whale before," Mr Mackay said.
Adult male sperm whales weigh up to 57 tonnes, can be up to 20 metres long and can live for 65 years. They are found in all oceans and are classified as vulnerable.
Three sperm whales were stranded on Paekakariki Beach in 1996.
- Kapiti Observer
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