Whale of a Tale: 45-Foot Rotting Carcass Gets Towed

By Michelle Wayland
|  Sunday, Feb 15, 2009  |  Updated 1:28 PM PDT
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Sunday the forklifts moved in.  It took a few of them and some team effort to pick the whale up, but in the end they hoisted the mammal onto a large truck to be taken away to <a title=Miramar landfill." />

Sunday the forklifts moved in. It took a few of them and some team effort to pick the whale up, but in the end they hoisted the mammal onto a large truck to be taken away to Miramar landfill.

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Whale Carcass Smell 'Overpowering'

The decomposing carcass of a roughly 35-foot whale was found floating less than two miles off the Children's Pool in La Jolla.
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The large whale that caused quite a stink this weekend in San Diego has been hauled away to a final resting place -- the Miramar landfill.

The whale carcass was removed around 9:15 a.m., said San Diego lifeguard Lt. Rick Wurts. It took six skip loaders -- three on each side of the large mammal -- to lift the roughly 40-ton whale onto a trailer, officials said.

The ordeal started Saturday when lifeguards spotted what they thought was an overturned vessel just west of the children’s' pool in La Jolla.  Instead, the big lump in the ocean turned out to be the carcass of a 45-foot Fin whale.

Lifeguards spent nearly six hours towing the whale from La Jolla to Fiesta Island.  Crews admit it's expensive and time consuming, but say it's still the best option.

"We couldn't take the chance it was going into a remote inaccessible area of the beach and then sit there two or three months, and have residents have to deal with that odor, " said lifeguard Lt. Nick Lerma. 

A small crowd gathered to watch as crews used four front loaders to bring the creature onto the beach of Mission Bay Saturday night. It's a sight and a smell they won't soon forget.

"It's way more disgusting than I thought in the first place. It snapped in half and it's bubbling. It smells so bad, " said Bob Lewis.

"It's maybe a little morbid, perhaps, but it's interesting to see how they're going to get it out," said Catherine Truesdale.

Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service took tissue samples to try to determine the whale's cause of death, but said they may never know because of the animal's decomposition.

San Diego lifeguards say they've had about nine whales wash ashore over the last fifteen years.

The Fin whale is the second largest living animal after the Blue whale.

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