Dead, frozen whale buried on NJ beach; removal was too hard

December 28, 2020

Freshly smoothed sand covers the carcass of a 15-ton humpback whale that was buried in the sand in Barnegat Light, N.J. on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. The whale had washed ashore three days earlier. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey beach is the final resting place for a 15-ton (13,600-kilogram) whale whose lifeless body washed ashore on Christmas day.

State and local officials used heavy equipment to bury the 31-foot (9.5-meter) male humpback whale on a beach Monday morning.

The whale was frozen solid and could not be cut into pieces for removal, as is commonly done in other cases in which dead whales wash ashore. That was the way crews removed a large whale that washed ashore in Toms River in April 2017 when temperatures were warmer.

“We needed to do something with it and we couldn’t leave it there any longer; there were just too many people coming near it,” Bob Schoelkopf, co-director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, said after the whale was buried on Monday.

Crews using two front-end loaders dug a trench and rolled the whale into it, then smoothed sand on top of it. By early afternoon, the only sign that a massive whale had been there was a lingering stench in the immediate area.

Schoelkopf said its cause of death was unknown, but there were no obvious physical signs of injury on the parts of it that were visible. It did not appear to have eaten in quite awhile, indicating it may have been ill.

The whale had been located just off the rock jetty of the Barnegat Inlet at Barnegat Light State Park, where one of the Jersey Shore’s iconic lighthouses is located.

Whale watching boats had spotted the whale alive earlier this year in Sandy Hook Bay, where it had been photographed feeding, Schoelkopf said.

In September, a different humpback whale was found dead off the Jersey Shore after being entangled.

Another dead humpback whale was found floating off Cape May in November.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.

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