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.