Seattle Dead Whale Mess Raises A Stink

Seattle’s dead whale, which washed up Saturday at a small Puget Sound Beach town called Burien, attracted an unusual crowd over the weekend as onlookers crowded around the remains of the 70-foot fin whale. The beached animal is estimated to have been dead for about a week before it washed up, and there’s reportedly quite a stink.

Yet park officials were still forced to warn people not to climb on the whale in their pursuit of that perfect Instagram picture moment.

Fin whales don’t dive deeply, and they are frequently struck by ships. John Calambokidis, a research biologist, told a local TV station that he’s pretty sure that’s what happened in this case: “[T]the whale was hit by a ship when it was still alive.”

There are visible signs of red paint on the whale. Unfortunately, because it was almost torn in half by the collision with the unknown ship, the skeleton and carcass are of no value. Myron Clinton, a park official for Burien, said that the cost of moving and disposing of the Seattle area dead whale was estimated to be tens of thousands of dollars.

Why whales get beached isn’t always well understood, and some marine mammal strandings remain a mystery. In March, an international team of researchers from the US and New Zealand published evidence that stranded pilot whales are often groups of young animals who have already lost their mothers. Their DNA analysis suggested that something must be happening in the ocean that splits up mother and youngster before the confused animals become stranded.

In five Southern California counties, a mass stranding of over 1,100 sea lion pups so far this year has caused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NAOO) to declare an “unusual mortality event” for the young sea lions. And wildlife experts predict that the situation can only get worse since the peak sea lion stranding season usually arrives around June 1.

The cause of the sea lion strandings is still unknown, but the Seattle dead whale doesn’t present a mystery — just a mess.

[swimming pilot whale photo courtesy SeaDave and flickr]