Check out the size of this blue whale…..
The 78-foot long body of a rare blue whale has washed up near southern Oregon’s Gold Beach – as experts warn this year’s record-breaking El Nino could be to blame.
The emaciated whale – which still weighed in at more than 100 tons – had been dead for about two weeks before it washed onto the sand about 70 miles south of Coos Bay.
Scientists believe that it may have become weakened by this year’s El Nino which forecasters are predicting will be one of the strongest on record.
Orca and shark bites were also found on the carcass which experts believe may have attacked the creature while still alive in its weakened state.
Calum Stevenson, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department ocean shores specialist, said: ‘The blubber layer was emaciated – 4 inches or less,’adding that a healthy blue whale has blubber up to 12 inches.
‘It wasn’t in great shape. It may have been weakened, and then attacked by the predators.’
Oceanic warming, particularly off the California coast, has also had a devastating effect on krill – the small crustaceans which are the main source of food for blue whales.
The body is a rare find for researchers who are now working to cut and peel back the layers of blubber to harvest the skeleton.
Most beached whales are buried in the sand where they are beached but scientists want to display the skeleton of the endangered blue whale at the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute. But it will be another couple of years of preparation before the bones are ready to exhibit.
Globally there are as few as 5,000 blue whales left in the world and they are designated as critically endangered by Canada’s Species At Risk Act
‘We don’t usually see blue whales this close in,’ said Stevenson. ‘They are not even on our radar for Whale Watch because they are so uncommon.’
Researchers have been working on the carcass all last week and by Friday, they had removed most of the blubber.
‘That was the easy part of the job, Stevenson said. ‘Now they’re down to the muscle and meat.
Work could take into next week.
‘It’s a nice day on the beach aside from the smell,’ he said Friday. ‘It’s pretty bad.’
A strong El Nino arrives about once every 20 years which can play havoc with wildlife.
Ocean temperatures show this one to be the second-strongest since such record keeping began in 1950, said Eric Boldt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
That would make it weaker than the El Nino of 1997-98 but stronger than the El Nino of 1982-83.
Both of those winters were known in California for relentless rain, strong winds and heavy snow.