A 15-foot-long pilot whale beached itself Thursday morning on Hilton Head Island and died, causing a stir for beachgoers, some of whom tried unsuccessfully to save the mammal.
A necropsy performed on the whale, found near the heel of the island at Port Royal Plantation, did not reveal a cause of death. More tests to check for viruses or other conditions that led to the 700-pound mammal's stranding will be completed in coming weeks, said Jessica Conway, a marine mammal technician with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
It was the first pilot whale to be stranded on Beaufort County shores since 2012, when one was found on Hunting Island.
The whale on Hilton Head was found near marker 118 at about 6 a.m. by a beachgoer who notified the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
A group of about eight people tried to push the dying whale back into the water, according to an email to The Island Packet
from an onlooker. The whale had been thrashing in the surf, but was dead by 7:30 a.m. when volunteers with the island's Sea Turtle Protection Project arrived.