This is only the fourth fin whale to wash ashore in this area since 2010. But what’s really unusual is that the animal was still alive when it reached the beach, giving the scientists — who arrived just after it stopped breathing — the extremely rare opportunity to perform an necropsy on a fresh whale carcass.
Most often, large whales washing ashore have been dead for a while, and can be too decomposed to learn much from. “These large whales, by the time they wash up, they’re already severely debilitated. This is our first live whale,” said Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at The Marine Mammal Center.
It turns out that this whale was probably involved in a bit of a hit-and-run with a ship, resulting in something called subcutaneous emphysema. The heart – the size of a small child – and part of the whale’s underside showed signs of hemorrhaging, a possible sign of traumatic injury. A bloody area, about the size of a large trash can lid, covered the whale’s sternum.
Aside from that, says Johnson
“It’s in really great body condition”
Well, apart from being dead, of course.
But for all my facetious comments, the link above does give some interesting detail about what the scientific team did and how they did it.
I’m going to try and remember to pop over to the Marine Mammal Center website once they’ve got some results back and have a look at what they found out. For starters, here’s their version of events.