By Hayley Gastmeier

hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

A dead sperm whale measuring over 14 metres was blessed in preparation for its burial at White Rock yesterday.

The whale had been discovered on the South Wairarapa beach on Monday by a local resident.

An image taken on Monday, when the whale was discovered PHOTO/ R SHAW-DOC

It is not yet clear what killed the mammal, which was thought to be about 40-years-old, just half its life expectancy.

Rangers from the Department of Conservation were at the scene yesterday, awaiting a digger to arrive so the whale could be moved to its beach burial site.

Also on site were Kaumatua Haami Te Whaiti and PJ Devonshire, general manager of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.

The pair blessed the animal, which had been dead for “a couple of days at most”.

Mr Te Whaiti said it was to be moved away from the waves, in an effort to halt its deterioration rate.

A scientist was due to examine the animal, before being buried today.

“There’s some interest from the science community about what might have caused its death.

“Someone from Massey University is coming . . . to take some samples, most likely from its stomach.”

Mr Te Whaiti said whales washing up on the beach were not a common occurrence along Wairarapa’s coast.

He remembers the last time it happened, saying it was about two years ago, at Glenburn.

“It was a young one, it had died at sea and washed up.”

Mr Devonshire said a karakia had been performed over the whale, which had been given the name — Te Mauri o Te Mata o Peru.

“Te Mata o Peru is the ancestor that accompanied Kupe to Aotearoa, and this land or area is named after him.

“Te Mauri is a life force — a gift from Tangoroa, for the whenua and the people of the area.”

DOC ranger Joe Hansen estimated the whale to weigh about 30 tonnes.

He said it was likely to have been already dead when it was washed up.

When single whales washed ashore, it was usually because they had been hit by a ship, he said.

Although he was not sure if that was the case in this instance.