Ocean City Hauling Away Whale Carcass in Pieces

Crews have cut up most of the massive mammal and transporting it to the north end for burial.


By Tuesday night, workers had removed most of the carcass of a dead whale that washed ashore on Monday afternoon near the Seventh Street jetty in Ocean City. 

Assisted by a pair of Ocean City Department of Public Works front-end loaders, three technicians from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine and several volunteers used flensing blades to cut the carcass into sections. A fourth Stranding Center employee was on hand to help with communications.

The remains of the whale were transported by public works crews to a spot on the bay side of the Ocean City-Longport Bridge, where they are being buried under mounds of sand. About three-quarters of the whale has been removed from the beach at Seventh Street, according to Ocean City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo.

The dead animal is a fin whale, also referred to as a finback whale, about 60 feet in length, according to Marine Mammal Stranding Center Director Bob Schoelkopf. An inspection of the whale on Tuesday afternoon revealed that the whale had been struck by a ship, he said. Further review on Wednesday of photographs of damage to the whale's vertebrae could help determine what type and size of ship.

Schoelkopf said the whale was an adult female. The fin whale is the second largest animal on earth (behind the blue whale) and is a federally endangered species.

Schoelkopf said a sperm whale died in the bay near the Ninth Street Bridge in Ocean City a little more than 20 years ago. He said that carcass was towed to and buried at the same beach where the fin whale is being taken.

He said adding lime and other material can help break down fat and hasten decomposition, and he said people were using the beach a week after the sperm whale was buried without noticing any indication of the buried carcass.

Because the fin whale is an endangered species, he said, it would be illegal to save or possess any bones from the carcass. But he said a museum could apply to the government to do so.

Word spread quickly throughout the region on Monday that the whale had washed ashore, and the carcass became an immediate spectacle with crowds arriving to take a look.

Police had to maintain a presence on the beach overnight to keep onlookers from approaching the decomposing carcass. On Tuesday, with sunny weather and temperatures in the 50s drawing even more of a crowd, police blocked access to the beach near the carcass so the city's heavy equipment could work.

Amanda Thomas January 24, 2012 at 10:47 PM
great photos!
Christa Michel January 24, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Aimee January 24, 2012 at 11:55 PM
How deep will they bury it? That's my favorite beach spot!!
Gloria January 25, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Leave it to Ocean City to try and lure the tourists back with warm weather and a rotting whale carcass! And leave it to the tourists to come! God bless us all!
Wyatt January 25, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Surprising that the burial ground is not in the south end where it would only annoy some shoobies.
Mr. B January 25, 2012 at 11:53 AM
were they checking beach tags of the onlookers?
George January 25, 2012 at 12:16 PM
I see the police are making sure everyone has their beach tags as well. :)
Hank Wolfe January 25, 2012 at 01:13 PM
My wife and I walked up and saw a hole about 15 feet deep on the West side the the Longport bridge where they were burying the carcass
Peaches Lukens January 25, 2012 at 07:42 PM
As a Marine Mammal Stranding Center volunteer, I personally got to participate in the necropsy (autopsy) of this awesome animal along with my daughter Halley and husband Mike . It was an experience of a lifetime. Tedious and smelly but layer upon layer was examined to determine the whales death. Massive organs...the tongue was huge, as was the jawbone. The protruding eye was the size of a basketball. All was meticulously extracted with simple knives and hooks. The ribs being the last to be examined determined her death...broken in places proved she'd met her fate with the collision of a boat. Such a waste of a life...gone are her ocean voyages and her great girth that sadly had to be buried in sections. You don't autopsy or bury 50 tons easily. Both the city, Stockton students and MMSC techs and volunteers did an incredible job. I happen to beach in the northend and personally find comfort in her being buried nearby. I will visit her grave often and pay my respects...celebrate her secret ocean life and grieve her death...and remember all I was fortunate enough to learn and see in such detail. Peaches Lukens
Florence Moyer January 25, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Your are the best, Peaches. Thanks for a beautiful post and for all that you do. I spend a good deal of time on the north end beach as well, and will remember to give thanks for this amazing creature when I'm there.
Duffer January 25, 2012 at 08:27 PM
And how do we know it was actually killed by a ship??? Broken bones don't mean much in an old carcass like this. Since it was seen dead in the shipping lanes it could have been run over after it was dead. Why is it that we always have to blame humans??? Whales like people all die one way or another. When they die, whales sometimes wash up on the beach. Death is just part of life. Just don't get the rush to blame humans every time a sea creature washes up on the beach.
leona January 27, 2012 at 11:07 PM
great job i have spent my last 12 summer in ocean city, great time by all. so gald so many people took care of the reamins of the whate. knowing she is near the ocean she loved is a wonderful thing for her. i will go and pay my repect this summer since i am staying on the north end of the island. tahnk you again for taking care of her
Matthew January 29, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Hey Duffer is the glass half empty much
Frank Robey February 21, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Schoelkopf said because the whale's layer of muscle showed signs of trauma, it was alive when it was likely struck by a ship. But when the layer of muscle was removed to expose ribs and vertebrae, the traumatized area was not as big or as severely damaged, Schoelkopf said. He speculates the whale may have suffered a glancing blow from a ship that would not show visible signs of damage (unlike some large ships that have actually impaled whales on their bow thrusters).


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