The carcass of a blue whale that washed up on a beach in Marin County, California was probably struck by a passing ship.
Marine Mammal Center officials and California Academy of Sciences have said that the body of an adult female blue whale, the largest creature on earth, has washed up on Agate Beach in Bolinas, California.
The nearly 80-foot-long sea mammal showed signs of skull trauma, a badly fractured spine, and some 10 broken ribs. The cause, as officials said:
“These injuries are indicative of significant blunt force trauma that is consistent with ship strikes”
Barbie Halaska, a research scientist at the center said:
“It is a tragedy that this whale’s story ended due to vessel collision. These types of examinations have enabled the scientific community to make recommendations for slower shipping speeds and route changes, and hopefully that will help future whales.”
In another twist of fate, this particular whale is known to researchers as an animal that was identified all the way back in 1999. Based on its distinctive fluke markings, and pictures stored in a photo-scientific data base, researchers have been able to place this blue whale in the Santa Barbara Channel area in at least 11 different years.
25 scientists and volunteers have since descended upon the carcass in an effort to be more specific as to how the animal died. Measurement and tissue samples, including blubber and skin, will be used to complete a final report due within two weeks.
Most unnatural whale deaths are caused by either entanglements in fishing gear or collisions with large ships.
All photos by The Marine Mammal Center via SF Gate