Have you heard the word “Whale” a lot lately?
Living here on the coast people are always mentioning that they saw a whale, or thought they saw one, leisurely making their way north from Mexico to Alaska or back south to Mexico depending upon the time of year. They are spectacular mammals who easily capture the interest of those who see them. Recently two whales nicknamed ‘Delta and Dawn’ made the national news when they ventured from the Pacific Ocean into the deep water channel which leads inland for about 90 miles to West Sacramento Calif. They spent about two weeks there but yesterday they swam back to the Ocean.
In 1985 another whale nicknamed Humphrey also strayed from his normal route and ended up in Rio Vista California about 69 miles inland, a bit south of West Sacramento. Then amazingly enough he appeared again in 1990 meandering around the San Francisco Bay. All three of those whales became instant celebrities for their antics and I happened to be dreaming about those whales when I was awakened by a early morning phone call Sunday to get to Seal Rock just North of Waldport and get photos of a beached whale. My first waking thought was ‘poor whale, something happened.’ My second thought was ‘oh no, I hope they aren’t going to try what they did in the 1970 debacle near Florence when they unsuccessfully tried to blow up a beached whale and ended up with a blubber shower!’ Then I began to think clearer and remembered that in 1979 a pod of whales beached themselves near the same place but were buried.
Dead WhaleHowever I didn’t know what to expect when I hit the beach in Seal Rock and spotted the large mass. Students from the veterinary school and Oregon State University were examining the adult gray whale when I got closer and then it hit me, what a smell! It was overwhelming; the whale about 41 feet long and weighing between 20 and 30 tons had apparently been dead for about three days prior to washing ashore. I spoke with some officials from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and they where working on a game plan to dispose of the whale but explosion thankfully wasn’t an option. It was either going to be a high tide to carry the whale back out, or bury it in some softer sand north of where it lay. I took my photos and left to go back to shower and hopefully get rid of the stench!
By the time I got back to Waldport the town was buzzing about the whale and people where heading there to see it in droves including one woman who had her grand kids in tow, ‘when I was a child I saw a whale on display on a train car and have never forgotten it, now my grand kids will get a chance to see one up close!’
Well I’m sure they will never forget their experience either, there is nothing quite as awesome as being face to face with a huge whale, and there is no doubt in my mind the smell will linger in their memory as well.
Thankfully this bit of coastal adventure ended early this morning when a huge earth moving vehicle gently lowered the whale into its freshly dug grave on the beach just yards from the Ocean that had once been its home.
Personally I’m going to stick to watching the whales swimming back and forth in the open ocean where they certainly appear to be having a good time; they look magnificent and you can’t smell them!!
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Added 02 June, 2007 by Rick