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Monday, July 23, 2012

Death comes for the humpback

By Linda Felaco

UPDATE, JULY 24: The Westerly Sun has reported that aquarium staff weren't able to find a place to perform the necropsy and the body was too badly decomposed already for them to be able to get much information from it—chunks of the carcass were falling off—so in the end they hauled her farther out to sea and sank her. So we'll never know how she died.
 
This morning, the Westerly Sun reported that a dead humpback whale had washed ashore at Lord's Point in Stonington. My husband and I grabbed the camera and headed down Route 1 to see if we could get a look at it before the good folks from Mystic Aquarium could haul it away. In one of life's odd coincidences, just as we were driving along the Charlestown moraine, WRIU was airing a program on … wait for it … the Charlestown moraine.


Onlookers gather upwind.
When we arrived on the scene at Lord's Point, a steady stream of people were gathering around and the neighbors were cheerfully directing them to the spot. The tide had started going out, so the carcass had drifted a few feet offshore. A cameraman from the Fox affiliate in Hartford was filming the scene. 

Aquarium staff talk to onlookers.
Aquarium staff were still trying to figure out where to bring the carcass, so they hadn't moved it yet and were just keeping an eye on it to make sure no one got too close. Though the stench was more than enough to keep people away. 

Neighbors who'd been there since it was first spotted said the whale, which appeared to be young, had enlarged visibly since it washed ashore, due to the accumulation of gases inside the decaying flesh. Indeed, the hide was starting to split from the strain. Cause of death is as yet unknown.