UPDATE: DECEMBER 27, 4:50 P.M. BEACHED WHALE TO BE BURIED IN THE DUNES
The National Park Service has agreed to let the finback whale that perished on along the shore of Jamaica Bay be buried on the beach where it is currently located near 216th Street at Breezy Point.
"The plan is to move the whale up to the dune line where it will be buried," said NOAA spokesperson Allison McHale, "and then conduct the necropsy there. This makes the most logistical sense. We have been working the National Park Service and New York City Sanitation to procure the heavy equipment needed to move the animal, and both of those groups have reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers who has the right type of heavy equipment as well.
"We hope to have the equipment needed to move the whale tomorrow," continued McHale. "The necropsy will then be conducted either tomorrow or Saturday, depending on when the whale is moved. This has truly been a team effort between NOAA, our stranding network partner the Riverhead Foundation, and the City of New York, and now the National Park Service, too."
UPDATE: DECEMBER 27, 12:05 P.M. BEACHED WHALE PERISHES AT BREEZY POINT
A 60-foot finback whale that beached itself inside Jamaica Bay off of 216th Street yesterday morning has died. Experts on the scene had expected the 60-ton mammal's chances of surviving were dismal as it was quite emaciated and appeared to have been ill for some time. Biologists now on the scene are developing a plan for conducting a necropsy and disposal of the animal. - TS
DECEMBER 26, BREAKING NEWS:
At 10:30 a.m. this morning, New York City’s Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department in Queens got a call of a different color. Security officers reported that a 60-foot finback whale had beached itself inside Jamaica Bay off of 216th Street. Even before representatives from the Riverhead Foundation, which often responds to such events in the tri-state area, could make their way to the scene to appraise the situation and see if the big creature could be saved, Fire Commissioner Tim Dufficy and several PBFD members headed out into the nasty weather to offer help.
“We grabbed a portable pump that can move 100 gallons of water per minute and tossed it in the back of our pick-up truck. When we got there, we set up the pump – which we just recently got to pump water out of basements following Hurricane Sandy – so that it would push saltwater over the whale. At that point, the tide was just about all the way out so the creature was nearly fully exposed. Almost immediately, it reacted to the soothing water, moving its fins, flexing its jaw and showing more movement than when it was first discovered.”
Unfortunately, the big whale appears to be quite sick and prospects for its survival are slim. According to Dufficy, it is emaciated to the point where the shape of its skull is clearly visible beneath the skin. The fire commissioner also noted that, as the tide began to rise this afternoon, officials from the Riverhead Foundation were on the scene attempting to do everything they could to keep it alive. If the whale succumbs to its illness or even its own massive weight crushing down upon its lungs as it remains stranded at the water’s edge, officials will likely perform an autopsy.
Second in size only to the blue whale, finbacks can reach nearly 70 feet in length and weigh up to 70 tons. They cruise at an average speed of 14 miles per hour but are capable of bursts up to 35 miles per hour. Finbacks can remain submerged for 50 minutes and share with blue whales the distinction of having the deepest voice on earth.
According to NOAA spokesperson, Allison McHale, finback whales are an endangered species and there is probably little that can be done to save them once they have beached.
“It’s likely that if the whale does not die or head back out to sea overnight that we’ll have to euthanize it tomorrow. This particular whale is very underweight for its size and species, and it shows no signs of having been injured by a boat, nets or fishing gear, so it has probably been sick for some time.”
At 4:00 p.m. the whale was still struggling to survive with air coming out of its blowhole every few minutes. Here’s hoping for a holiday miracle.