This is a photo of the fluke of “Tango,” a humpback whale calf that was found dead on an island near Juneau in late August. (Courtesy / Bri Pettie)

This is a photo of the fluke of “Tango,” a humpback whale calf that was found dead on an island near Juneau in late August. (Courtesy / Bri Pettie)

Vessel strike cause of death of humpback whale calf in late August

“Deep and large” lacerations found on body, officials say.

A vessel strike was determined as the cause of death of a local humpback whale calf named Tango near Juneau in late August, according to National Marine Fisheries Service Alaska region officials on Thursday.

The conclusion followed a post-mortem exam that found “deep and large” lacerations on the body of Tango, a 2023-born calf of a well-known local humpback, Sasha, according to Suzie Teerlink, marine mammal specialist with NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region and Mandy Keogh, the Alaska region stranding coordinator.

The calf was originally discovered dead off the shore of Hump Island, a small island near Juneau, on Aug. 25. Preliminary examination showed some injuries on Tango’s body, but it was unclear at the time if Tango was involved in a strike and if that was the cause of its death.

“It looks as though there was an interaction with a large propeller,” Teerlink said in an interview Thursday.

Teerlink said during the exam, biologists and veterinarians found that one laceration went into its body cavity, and another nearly severed one of its pectoral fins.

Teerlink said Tango’s body had evidence of two or three other propeller scars, likely from smaller crafts, prior to the August strike. She said younger animals often partake in more human interaction, and the area in Juneau where the mom and calf spent most of their time is considered a “really high traffic area.”

“We see and have documented several forms of human interaction that weren’t lethal on lots of different animals,” she said. “These interactions, that we would consider sublethal, we can see them happening a lot more than is often thought to be happening. It does seem that during the short life of this animal there was a lot of vessel interaction.”

Keogh said in mid-September that NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement was still investigating the death and strike. On Thursday she said it was unclear if the investigation was still ongoing in October.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at or (651) 528-1807.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A Shell station in Anchorage. (Nathaniel Herz/Northern Journal)
Shell abandons North Slope oil leases, raising questions about the industry’s future in Alaska

Experts say some of the state’s hard-to-tap oil prospects are becoming less attractive.

Tom Abbas discusses the hose his boat needs as shop owner and vintage halibut jacket provider Jim Geraghty shows his customer the options. Racks of dry-cleaned woolen jackets hang among the marine supply aisles in Gerahgty’s Lemon Creek business. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Coats of many colors: Halibut jackets make a big splash again

“Pre-owned” wool garments from many decades ago being tracked down for resale by Juneau marine shop.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, May 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Columbia state ferry sails through Lynn Canal on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Alex McCarthy / Juneau Empire file photo)
Columbia ferry out of service until end of the year

51-year-old ship has been out of service since November; corrosion in fire system cited for delay.

Jennifer Brown plays the drum while Jarrell Williams dances at an MMIP rally on the Alaska State Capitol steps on May 5. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska lawmakers approve additional support for addressing missing and murdered Indigenous people

Cultural training for law enforcement officers and dedicated MMIP investigators among updates.

Rep. Sara Hannan (left) and Rep. Andi Story, both Juneau Democrats, talk during a break in floor debate Sunday, May 12, at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau’s legislative delegation reflects on lots of small items with big impacts passed during session

Public radio for remote communities, merit scholarships, fishing loans among lower-profile successes

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about his vision for Alaska’s energy future at the Connecting the Arctic conference held in Anchorage on Monday. Next to him is Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, invited to Anchorage to speak at this week’s Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy examining energy bills passed by Alaska Legislature

Expresses optimism about carbon storage bill, pondering next steps on royalty relief that failed.

Most Read