Friday, January 13, 2006

1 Humpback Whale washes up on Cape Island, near Charleston S.C.

Dead Humpback Whales washes up on Cape Isl.

Thursday,January 12, 2006

Cape Island - The carcass of an endangered humpback whale has washed up on one of the state's most remote stretches of beach. Researchers are still trying to determine its cause of death.

The whale's location made for a difficult day's work for National Ocean Service biologist Wayne McFee.

"We were very limited ... it took us an hour and a half to walk to the animal today with all our gear," McFee said. "We couldn't come from the beach and had to get to it from the back side of the island, and there's a big marsh back there."

The humpback's enormous, bloated carcass was first reported floating on the open ocean 18 miles offshore from Charleston on Saturday. Pushed by southerly winds, the creature eventually drifted north and washed up on a beach in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

When McFee and biologists Dean Cain, Lauren Beddila and Leslie Burdett reached the animal, they found a 45-foot, 9.5-inch-long female that had likely been floating dead for at least a week. Female humpbacks can reach up to 52 feet in length, so it was likely that this whale was a young adult, McFee said.

With the tide rising and daylight fading, the team only had time to take basic measurements, gather samples of skin and blubber and a make quick cutaway examination of the left side of the whale's skull. These early measurements only determined that the whale did not die by fishing line entanglement or a blow to the head from a passing ship.

"There were also a number of shark bites, and I was wondering if that or a collision killed the whale. But we didn't see any evidence of that," McFee said.

A further examination of the humpback today should help determine whether a ship might have impacted the whale's body, or if the animal died of disease, perhaps. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesperson Blair Mase said that, as of Wednesday, there was no indication that the Navy was conducting any sonar exercises that might have damaged the whale's hearing and led to its death.

McFee added that the animal was so badly decomposed that the cause of her demise might never be determined. Because humpback whales are listed as an endangered species, researchers typically try to conduct thorough examinations on any dead ones that wash ashore.

"The location of where it is is just not good for trying to get pieces and parts out of there," he said, "We won't even be able to move the head."

Contact Chris Dixon at cdixon@postandcourier.com or 745-5855.


Scientists say humpback whale died after hitting ship

Associated PressCHARLESTON, S.C.

- Scientists say a humpback whale that washed up this week on a remote section of the South Carolina coast apparently died after being hit by a ship.
The whale's carcass was first reported about 18 miles off Charleston last weekend. It washed up later on Cape Island at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
Scientists conducted a necropsy on Thursday.
"There were multiple fractures to numerous ribs, shards of bone spread through the body," said Wayne McFee of the National Ocean Service's marine mammal stranding program. "That's what did her in, we're pretty sure."
The humpback whale is an endangered species. There are now an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 humpback whales which were driven nearly to extinction a century ago by whalers.


Biologists: Humpback whale died from collision with ship

(Charleston-AP) January 13, 2006 - Biologists say a humpback whale that washed up on the beach in Charleston County died after being hit by a ship.
Wayne McFee with the National Ocean Service says the whale suffered numerous broken ribs and there were bone shards throughout the animal's body.

The 45-foot whale was found on Cape Island on Wednesday. Biologists who examined the badly decomposed whale Wednesday say it was likely a young female.

The body had been seen floating about 18 miles off Charleston last Saturday.

McFee says the necropsy, photographs and other evidence will be reviewed by humpback whale experts.

Four ocean service biologists and two College of Charleston students performed the necropsy.

Posted 7:40am by Bryce Mursch

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