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Way Downstream … (Nov. 7-14, 2019)

In Virginia Beach, the challenge of a dead whale

       A 26-foot-long, decomposing creature washes up on your beach. What are you going to do?

         Virginia Beach had that challenge last week with a dead juvenile humpback whale that had been seen floating at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

         Humpbacks migrate south in the Atlantic this time of year in preparation for winter mating. They aren’t often spotted in the Bay. But they’re known to stop by for a meal or two, typically an array of fish they consume while swimming with mouth open.

         “You could think of it as a truck stop,” Alexander Costidis, the Virginia Aquarium’s stranding response coordinator, told the Virginian-Pilot.

         This one was estimated to be three years old or less; humpbacks can grow to 60 feet and weigh 40 tons.

         Still, getting rid of something as long as a moving truck takes some doing. A hydraulic excavator from the city’s public works shop first lifted the whale for examination. Then it was carried off to be buried.

         Humpbacks are the most vocal of whales, with a range of songs to communicate. No sounds were recorded from this one that might indicate a cause of death. A vessel strike was ruled out.