A Whale of an Autopsy

Marine Experts Testing Whale Carcass Found in SF Bay

By Jessica Greene
|  Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010  |  Updated 11:42 AM PDT
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Raw Video: Dead Whale Floats in San Francisco Bay

NBC Bay Area

Despite it's condition, the whale carcass wasn't stinky the next day, according to an NBC Bay Area reporter at the scene.

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Marine mammal researchers are doing a necropsy on a dead gray whale found floating in the San Francisco Bay to help figure out how and why it died. Experts will also analyze tissue samples from the whale's body to see what other clues they can learn about the creature.

The 20 to 25-foot carcass was spotted just off the Broadway Pier, between Fort Mason and Alcatraz, floating toward the Ferry Building Tuesday afternoon. Seagulls swarmed around the whale's body picking off pieces of the rotting flesh as it made its way through the bay and under the bridge.

A Coast Guard crew towed the carcass to a Richmond beach to keep it out of the way of other boaters and to keep it overnight until researchers could get to it. They tied ropes to the carcass and secured it to the beach overnight. Despite it's condition and overnight stay on the shoreline, NBC Bay Area reporter Christie Smith said early Wednesday morning that the whale carcass wasn't stinky -- yet.

Marine Mammal Center spokesman Jim Oswald said that the animal looks to be fairly young, according to its size. Young whales can get into trouble when they're separated from their mothers, Oswald said.

 "We'll be seeing if there's evidence of malnutrition or marine debris ingestion, which seems to be more and more of a common issue with whales," Oswald said.

After the exam comes the big decision -- how to dispose fo the carcass. In many similar cases, carcasses have been towed out to sea but the tide often brings it back. In one of the most unusual cases in washed-up whale history, a carcass was blown up on an Oregon beach.

Jessica Greene thinks maybe they should call Hancock to wind up his whale-pitching arm and head over to the Richmond shoreline.

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