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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Whale hit by ship; destined for deep sea as research site, Mission Bay, San Diego - 23rd Nov 2011

A few hundred spectators gathered at Fiesta Island’s shoreline on Wednesday afternoon for the arrival of a bloated fin whale, and to watch scientists gather data about what killed the 67-foot creature.

The research team will get even more information than they initially thought thanks to an announcement by Richard Branson’s Virgin Oceanic organization that it would pay for towing the whale to sea so researchers can observe the slow decomposition process created by a “whale fall.”

It took more than six hours to tow the carcass from Point Loma, where it was discovered Saturday, to the calm water of Mission Bay for the equivalent of an autopsy. After about an hour of tugging by three tractors chained together, city crews were unable to move the whale above the waterline as project managers had planned.

So, roughly two dozen researchers and assistants in yellow waders and rubber boots flocked to the water’s edge and started removing large chunks of skin and blubber. They exposed enough bone to determine that whale was hit by a ship, a common cause of death for the second-largest species of marine mammals. Read More