Kahika – the beached Gray’s Beaked Whale

I want to tell you about a very simple ceremony I was part of today but first to set the scene.

Yesterday I had an email to say that a dead Gray’s Beaked Whale – a young male, had been towed, by two men in a dinghy, to my local beach at Wood Bay.   So I wandered down to have a look.  This is the third such beaching in recent years according to the Dept. of Conservation rangers who had been called in to help.  According to DOC Gray’s Beaked Whales are generally found in deep temperate waters, not in a shallow harbour like the Manukau.  In appearance they are distinctive with a long, slender beak with, in the adult males, teeth that run two thirds along the jaw line.

Our beached whale had been dead for several days, based on its appearance and a plan was devised to bury it the following day with a simple ceremony, at a spot just up from the beach.

And so at two o’clock today, one digger, two DOC rangers, one Heritage Manager from Ngati Whatua and a handful of neighbours gathered to farewell and bury this whale.

Firstly there was a simple explanation of why we would choose to honour such a mammal – linking to ancestral connection and the role that whales have played in the lives of local Maori.  Next there was the need to honour him with a name before we laid him to rest.  “Kahika” was chosen based on Kahikatea being a giant among the local forest trees and whales being giants of the sea.  A simple karakia or prayer was offered and we bestowed the name Kahika.  He was gently rolled into the grave, accompanied by flowers and foliage from our gardens and the bush.  We stood in attendance as the grave was filled in before offering a prayer of completion and singing a waiata together.

Te Aroha                                                                                       Love

Te Whakapono                                                                         Truth

Me Te Rangimarie                                                                 And Peace

Tatou Tatou E                                                                          Is for us All

Simple and honourable for both whale and human.

Arohanui Kerry-Ann