Posted: March 23rd - Updated: March 31st
A 61-foot fin whale washed ashore on Fenwick Island on Friday, March 19.
The whale was first reported on Wednesday, March 17, by the Coast Guard vessels about 4.5 miles off the Indian River Inlet. The whale continued to drift and altered its course over the next few days.
“It was kind of a challenge,” said Suzanne Thurman, executive director of MERR Institute. “We were tracking it, but due to wind direction and surface currents, it made it hard to estimate where and if she was going to land.”
The beaching marked the largest whale MERR (Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation) has responded to, and largest whale to wash up on Delaware shores in recorded history.
“It appears that there has been trauma, but have to wait and see until we can better look,” Thurman said. Unfortunately, that look fell on a day marked by heavy rain and thunderstorms and expected gale force winds along the coast, which makes the process of a necropsy on the large mammal even more dangerous and difficult.
During the days from the initial beaching to its removal, MERR volunteers took shifts standing with the body in order to answer questions from the throng of visitors to see the large creature. Thurman and a group of MERR volunteers, along with crew members of the Division of Soil and Water all assisted in moving and preparing the whale for the necropsy on Monday, March 22. “Of course, our volunteers, as always, have been great, and the state has been more than cooperative and helpful for this not-so-pleasant task,” Thurman said.
“It is always tragedy to see such a beautiful animal wash up on shore,” she added.”The best we can do is to try to find out what happened to her. It’s physically grueling to deal with an animals this size and I can’t thank the volunteers enough who endure these weather conditions.”
This marks the second whale to wash up on local shores in recent week, with a 10-ton humpback whale beaching on March 15 in Ocean City, Maryland. The result of the young female humpback was determined to have suffered a head trauma, most likely caused by coming in contact with a boat.”The majority of these animals have died or become injured or ill because the impact of human behavior, so the least we can do is try to find out more about it when it washes ashore,” Thurman said.
The fin whale is the second-largest animal on the planet, behind only the blue whale. The fin whale can grow to more than 80 feet in length and live into its 90s. The endangered mammal is a baleen whale, which means it does not have teeth, but rather filters its food through its mouth, feeding mainly on small fish and crustaceans.
It is known as the “greyhound of the sea,” as its slender body enables it to propel its massive frame up to 25 miles an hour.
For more information on the non-profit MERR Institute and find out ways to help, visit www.merrinstitute.org, To report a sea mammal stranding, call the MERR Hotline at 302.228.5029
Huge thanks to MERR for providing the photo’s and press release ! Thanks guys!