Humpback struck by oil tanker near Valdez

James Halpin

A humpback whale that was dead after being struck by an oil tanker on its way to the oil terminal at Valdez will be towed out to a watery grave today, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The animal, estimated at between 40 and 50 feet long, was hit by an oil tanker as the tanker made its way through a set of buoys heading into the port, Coast Guard Petty Officer Charly Hengen said Tuesday night.

The tanker, identified as the Kodiak, struck the whale with its bow and carried it for some distance into Port Valdez. It was not clear whether the whale was alive or possibly floating dead when the tanker struck it, she said.

And that might never be known. The whale, tied to a buoy in the harbor for safekeeping Tuesday, was to be hauled out to sea, Hengen said.

"That's the plan: To tow it out and hopefully with its weight it will drift away," she said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called in to investigate.