Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yet Another Whale Carcass at my Beach


In April last year, 2011, I posted about a whale that had been washed-up at 
our Newport beach (see here). At the time I thought it would have been a once 
in a lifetime event, but here we go again. This is how Sydney Morning Herald 
just reported it:

Wait for big seas to wash whale out of ocean pool

The large humpback whale carcass swept by huge seas into the ocean pool at Newport Beach may be refloated at dusk 
tonight. Wildlife experts from the state government and Warringah Council say the high tide and big swell may be 
enough to wash the whale out of the pool at about 8pm, now that sections of the pool fence have been cut away.
Having to fight against these big seas is really taking its toll and some of those animals will die offshore. Generally, 
they are dealt with by offshore predators such as sharks 
''Already we are starting to see a rolling movement start to happen, and a few waves have crashed over the pool,'' a 
spokeswoman for the Office of Environment and Heritage, Gabrielle Last, said at 3.40pm. ''We are expecting a big 1.9 
metre tide, and hopefully that will be enough.''
Staff from the environment office and Warringah Council are preparing to remain on the beach, which is closed to the 
public, all night. If the whale is not dislodged tonight, it may have to be cut up and removed.
The sub-adult male whale was believed to have died about three or four days ago and washed  into the pool overnight, 
near a popular surf break, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Marine Fauna Program Co-ordinator Geoff Ross 
The phones rang hot early this morning to alert authorities to the latest casualty of the annual whale migration. Several 
dozen residents, some with young children, gathered to watch police clear a small area of beach in front of the whale - 
which they curiously deemed to be dangerous - and move spectators and media back to the comparative safety around 
the public toilets.
Steve Messenger, on holidays from Newport Beach in California, was visiting the area to compare the Sydney beach to 
the one in his hometown. "It was a little bit gross," he said. "It was like a big pile of jelly, like a big blob. You can't see 
the head or the tail."
The ocean pool that the whale washed into, crushing the bollards and chains around it, has been closed off as rangers 
decide how to remove the body. A sign erected by the council also says the beach has been closed, warning of a possible 
increase in shark activity.
"Whenever you get a dead whale, there's a chance of pieces of dead whale, blubber or oil washed out there, and that 
will attract sharks," NPWS northern beaches manager Chris Grudnoff said. "A whale like this would be a very good feed 
for a pack of sharks."

'Not unusual at this time of the year'

Mr Ross said: "It's not unusual at this time of the year to see dead humpbacks. Off Sydney, we're looking at the tail end 
of the humpback migration and it's at this time of the year that we start to see the sick and infirm animals coming 
through - the animals that just won't make it in the population.
"And having to fight against these big seas is really taking its toll and some of those animals will die offshore. 
Generally, they are dealt with by offshore predators such as sharks but, of course, when the seas are very rough and 
[there are] strong winds, it blows the carcass in shore very quickly.
"This is our second humpback in NSW on the beach already and I would expect a few more this season. Last year, we 
had seven."
Wendy McFarlane of ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) said the whale 
carcass had considerably damaged the seaward wall of the pool. "What's unusual about this one is a combination of a 
spring tide and some very big seas [which] actually washed this up into a man-made rock pool," she said.

First a seal in dog walking park, now a dead whale

ORRCA rescuer Shona Lorigan faced another long day today after spending 12 hours yesterday standing guard over a 
New Zealand fur seal that decided to come ashore in a nearby dog walking park at Rowland Reserve in Bayview.
Ms Lorigan, who has two dogs of her own, spent the entire day yesterday stopping dogs from getting too close to the 
seal, which had clambered up on to a deck by the water to sunbathe.
"Yesterday was a long but happy day because no harm came to any animal. All the dog walkers were delightful. I spent 
the whole day down there waiting for the seal to leave," she said.
"Today was obviously not such a happy day. It was very sad to see this moment. There are plenty of humpback whales 
out at sea today but they don't tend to hang around for male deaths, just for the pups," she said.

How to remove the 30-tonne carcass?

Mr Ross said rangers would be trying to determine the safest way to remove the carcass after today's low tide, which is 
expected to occur about 2pm.
"We'll go out and assess the situation and we'll plan the best and safest method for getting the carcass away from the 
bars, maybe up on a beach and then removal at a time later tomorrow morning ... but certainly it will involve a lot of 
people and a lot of resources. Large bulldozers and equipment will need to be in place," he said.
Ms McFarlane said there were three removal options - leaving the carcass at the beach to decompose, burying it at the 
beach or towing it out to sea.
"Quite often if the carcass is in an isolated place, they just leave it to decompose but in an area as public as this, that 
can't happen. The [other choice is] usually to bury it on site but there's a real problem with vehicle access," she said.
"In this case, there is some talk of demolishing the sea wall and hoping that the carcass will wash out to sea with the 
high tide. And even if it washes just slightly offshore, it can be towed further out to sea and sunk. The at-sea burial will 
be the technique favoured with this animal. f it has to be removed piecemeal, that would be an absolutely ghastly job 
and it would be carried out between National Parks and the council."
Ms McFarlane said the carcass had some injuries. Although it was not clear whether the whale sustained the injuries 
before or after it died, she said: "It would leave a blood trail into the sea and that will attract the sharks.
"It's not a good place to surf if you've got a whale carcass nearby."
Peter Hay, the acting manager of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, told ABC Radio another plan would be to 
"cut the whale into pieces on the beach and then remove it by machine up to trucks that would be standing nearby".
Mr Hay said sharks were always a concern. "We are dealing with the ocean. It's a wild place and sharks are really part 
of the picture," he said.
He said Newport Beach would remain closed, adding: "We are liaising closely with the council ... to maintain the 
closure if we indeed end up cutting the whale up. That would be basically to keep people out of the water for that 
potential danger of sharks."
Last week, a southern right whale calf believed to have been born in Sydney Harbour was spotted swimming by its 
mother's side up the Hawkesbury River.
The pair were among 15,000 humpback whales making their way north towards warmer waters.

Previous attempts

Newport Beach was closed for at least one week in April last year after fears the carcass of a dead sperm whale would 
attract sharks.
Rangers wearing protective gear and armed with chain saws and knives had to hack the carcass into one-metre chunks 
before taking the parts to a waste management centre.
In 2005, marine biologists used explosives to kill an 11-tonne southern right whale beached on Cape Town's False Bay 
coast after attempts to move it failed.
In 1970, the Oregon Highway Division in the United States used dynamite to blow up a 13.7-metre sperm whale carcass 
that washed up on a Florence beach.

I'll be doing a post of my best photos of the sad event tomorrow. Here's one as 
a placeholder:

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