Experts studying dead whale

Lifeguards assist with the removal. Photo: NBCSanDiego.com
Lifeguards assist with the removal. Photo: NBCSanDiego.com

City News Service

Whale experts were examining a pregnant, 67-foot fin whale that washed up dead near the mouth to San Diego Bay after towing it to Fiesta Island for a necropsy Wednesday.

San Diego Lifeguards towed the carcass about 6.5 miles from near the Point Loma Waste Treatment Plant, where it washed up Saturday, to Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, lifeguard Lt. Greg Buchanan said.

NBCSanDiego.com reported Wednesday afternoon that "billionaire Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin companies, is helping foot the bill for the removal ... " See their coverage at

www.nbcsandiego.com

"Everything went according to plan this morning ... (but) I can honestly tell you the lifeguards were struggling with the enormity of the whale," said San Diego lifeguard Lt. Greg Buchanan. "It was a struggle to get it in."

Parks and Recreation equipment was used to drag the whale, which could weigh up to a ton per foot, onto the beach, where the examination was expected last until about sunset, Buchanan said.

The remains of the whale will disposed in the open ocean on Friday, he said.

Officials said the whale had not been dead long when it washed up sometime before 4:30 p.m. Saturday, and a roughly 5-foot fetus apparently was expelled by bloating about two days after the mother died.

The fetus was examined Tuesday, but it was unclear if the baby was ready to be delivered. Buchanan said the fetus was gone this morning, speculating it may have been taken away by the tide.

Fin whales, found in oceans all over the world, were nicknamed the "greyhound of the sea" because they can swim as fast as 23 mph, are the second-largest species of whale and can grow up to 75 feet and weigh 70 tons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Taking fin whales, prized for their oil, was largely banned by 1976. North Pacific fin whales off the California and Oregon coasts are estimated to number around 2,500.

   
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