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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Bryde's Whale dead on the beach at Shoalhaven Heads

There is no way to say this gently - this Whale, a Bryde's Whale died some hours after being found, beached, at Shoalhaven Heads, near Nowra. 

It was found after noon on Sunday 26 December, and died early on Monday morning, after attempts to rescue it failed. The Whale was measured at 12.2 metres long, and estimated to weigh about 20 tonnes (I would think that is an overestimation). This species of Whale is slightly longer, but less heavy than, the more familiar Hump-Backed Whale,

Another Bryde's Whale was found washed up on a beach at Iluka (Northern Rivers area of NSW) last Friday. That story includes a good image of that Whale.

Today Kirsten and I decided to go and see for ourselves the remains of this creature.
Brydes's Whale at Shoalhaven Heads
The Whale was found lying belly down, on Sunday. But at some stage it has rolled or been rolled by the waves, so it is now lying on its back, with the belly exposed and the ribbed skin of the throat clearly visible.
Ribbed throat of the Bryde's Whale.
Eye socket of the Bryde's Whale
The animal is lying on its side, virtually upside down. The heavily ribbed throat markings are just starting - in front of the eye. The pink flesh is recent damage to the surface of the skin.
Lower abdomen and flanks of the whale

The skin on the lower flanks has many marks of parasites on it. The fresh scratch marks are injuries incurred by the Whale before it died.
There are many strange patterned marks along the flanks. (Click to enlarge).
Small fin of the Bryde's Whale.
We walked from the car park at Shoalhaven Heads, right to the southern end of the beach - a  distance of some 5 Kms, according to Google's Satellite View. We enjoyed watching two Sea Eagles circling above us, on the way back.

There was a steady stream of people walking to and from the tip of the beach. Two young Beach Patrol officers declined our requests for a lift in their 4WD Beach Buggy.

My legs ache from the unfamiliar amount of exercise.

Post-script: Here how to NOT dispose of a whale carcase. An example from the USA.


Le Loup said...

What a waste of such a creature, very sad. I wish we knew more about why this happens so that perhaps we could stop this beaching.

Denis Wilson said...

I agree Le Loup.
This animal was alive when it "beached". To me, it does indeed seem a waste. It has "Bush Tucker" opportunity written all over it. But the National Parks and Wildlife Service is putting out warning notices around it, physically, and on the radio, saying "do not touch", (and people are NOT interfering with the carcase (as can be confirmed from my photos taken at 6:00PM yesterday). But the NPWS spokespersons pretend they cannot get heavy machinery to the site.
Rubbish. They could take a Caterpillar Tractor along the beach at low tide without doing much damage. Real truth - they do not know what to do, and the bosses are on holidays, so nobody dares make a decision.
Time and Tide will win - and take the decision out of their hands. It will be very smelly in a few days - then they will be forced to do what they could and should have done in the first place - intervene.
No wonder the NPWS is held in low regard by many people.
Re Whale Beaching generally, I cannot pretend to have any answers. This and the one at Iluka were both single beachings, not mass strandings of pods of whales.
They did at least try to care for it, but apparently whales die from pressure of their own weight once beached.
It is a terrible waste however one looks at it.

Flabmeister said...

A sad event all round. My understanding is that the jury is still out on what causes beachings so I'm not sure what could be done once is has got stranded.

However to simply leave it on the beach to rot seems very poor. My simple solution - now it is dead - would be to get a large boat and tow it out to sea to fed the sharks.

I was also surprised given the Japanese interest in undertaking scientific research into whales that there were not a heap of cetaceologists from various of that country's universities checking the corpse over. Perhaps it is is the sushilologists that are doing the research, and the meat would be too well hung by the time they got there?

Denis Wilson said...

I agree entirely, Martin.
But action ought have started ASAP, not waiting till the NPWS bosses return from holidays to make a decision. By then it will be too late.
While the skeleton and tail flukes are strong would have been the best chance to drag it out at high tide, with a tug boat, or heavy fishing boat.
Less said about the Japanese interest in whales the better. But glad you raised the issue. :-))

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks Denis for a most interesting article and the response it engendered makes these blogs so important. Seeing a beached whale is an image that lasts for a lifetime.

All the best

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Dave.
The walk made me wonder how long the "lifetime" might be, but I have felt stronger for doing the trek - in every sense.
It was a first for me, and definitely worth seeing such a great creature up close. Fascinating.
Glad you appreciate the post.
The feedback process is great.