26 September 2017

Tale of a Dead Whale

The dead whale floating in Cook Inlet has washed ashore at Kincaid Park
It's not yet clear what led to the humpback’s death or where it died, and biologists are warning people to stay away from the carcass.
The dead humpback whale that had been floating near the Port of Anchorage last week has washed ashore at Kincaid Park, drawing groups of onlookers Monday and prompting federal officials to warn the public to stay away.
"Marine mammals can transmit disease to humans and pets, so people should stay away, and keep their pets away from this stranded whale," said Mandy Migura of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service.
It's still unclear what led to the humpback's death and where exactly it died, according to Barbara Mahoney, an Anchorage-based NOAA biologist.
It's uncommon for humpback whales — dead or alive — to find their way to Upper Cook Inlet, Mahoney said.
Biologists don't know whether this whale swam to Upper Cook Inlet and died or died elsewhere and the tide carried its carcass toward Anchorage.
Mahoney said NOAA got a report Saturday that the whale carcass had washed ashore at Kincaid Park's beach. Last week, the same dead whale drifted with the tide from Knik Arm to around Point MacKenzie to the Port of Anchorage area.
Mahoney said by the time the whale carcass reached Kincaid, it still had the orange buoy strapped to its flipper that a team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson attached earlier in the week.
She described the whale as a "sub-adult" and said she had gotten reports that it was between 25 feet and 30 feet long. It had no obvious external injuries, she said, including bruises or cuts.
"There are no signs of human interaction," she said.
NOAA planned to have a veterinarian go to the Kincaid beach this week to examine the whale and try to determine a cause of death, Mahoney said. But since the whale died at least 10 days ago, its tissues may have deteriorated by now.
"It's not very fresh," she said.
On Monday morning, people walked out to the beach for an up-close look at the foul-smelling whale carcass, about 500 feet from an access trail. Some poked its tongue with rocks. Others knelt to take selfies.
One group said they drove about an hour from Palmer to look at the whale. A few others said they had heard about it on the news and wanted to see it for themselves, including Brandon Tusi, who said he has a penchant for whales.

They get to see a lot of the world that we don’t get to see,” he said. “They’re like a mystical creature to me.”

* * * * *

Ken Marsh, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, cautioned people that the whale carcass could attract bears. The department had received reports of two black bear sows with cubs in the area, he said.

"It's a potential bear smorgasbord," Marsh said. "If folks want to go down there and take a look, they probably want to bring their bear spray."


threecollie said...

What an incredible world you live in!

Rev. Paul said...

Marianne, one doesn't have to be in Alaska very long to figure out that we share this place with the wildlife.

LindaG said...

That would be neat to see, give a breeze in the proper direction.
I am surprised the bears haven't been there already. I would also think a mother bear with cubs would take priority over "lookie loos".

And of course there is always the possibility the carcass could explode. Now a bunch of onlookers with whale guts all over them would definitely be interesting. :)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I had a good friend in college who participated in defleshing a whale when the college he attended got their turn at recovering a whale for the skeleton. He stopped by once to say hi - outside. He had stopped by our house but my mother had barred his entry because he reeked of..well, dead whale.

Rev. Paul said...

TB, that's a great story. I suspect most folks in our squeaky-clean society would be ... let's say, taken aback, at the rather aromatic nature of that smell. And there's SO MUCH of it. :)

Steve said...

Hold on, I'm calling the Oregon Department of Transportation! They have experience with this kind of thing!

Old NFO said...

Bear spray, lemme see... is that six or eight rounds of .45-70?

drjim said...

At least they didn't use a ton of dynamite to blow it up, which is what I think Steve was referring to!

Our dog saw her first cow "on the hoof" this morning when we walked her. She wasn't sure what it was, but was pretty curious.

I'm wondering what she'll do when she sees her first deer.....

Steve said...

Science demands we determine how much dynamite is necessary to turn a dead whale into bite sized morsels.

Rev. Paul said...

Steve, I believe Oregon settled that one ... pretty decisively, as I recall.

NFO, you keep shooting until they go down & stay down. X rounds + one for good luck. :)

Jim, said doggie will probably have a cow of her own when she sees a deer ... or antelope ... or ...

Steve, the science is settled, I tell you! The answer: LOTS.

northierthanthou said...

Heh, I remember that dynamite story. Couldn't imagine life between that moment and a bath.