By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The humpback whale that stranded and died south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock on Sunday will spend one more night tied to floats nearby.
Tomorrow morning, West Seattle-headquartered Global Diving and Salvage will send a vessel and crew to Fauntleroy to take the 39-foot juvenile female humpback on her final journey.
We talked tonight with Global vice president David DeVilbiss, who said they got the notification around midday today to “go ahead and take care of the whale” – too late to finalize logistics and make it happen before tomorrow morning.
He says they’re likely to use the Prudhoe Bay, which gets a spotlight each summer as it delivers the Seafair Pirates to Alki Beach. That’s also what Global used to tow away the fin whale that washed up at Seahurst Park in Burien three years ago. While it was taken to a relatively remote spot to decompose, this whale will be sunk in an unspecified area of Puget Sound that’s approved for the procedure.
DeVilbiss says that “involves towing it out and weighing it down with benign weights – basically, concrete blocks,” then cutting it loose to sink. It’s not as simple as it might sound – the whale’s carcass bloats with gases, so they’ll need to make sure the weights are enough that it won’t just float back up again.
No specific time is set for the tow – the crew will start work relatively early, preparing the boat and materials, before heading to Fauntleroy.
One more followup – the newest information on the investigation into why the whale died. Here’s what Cascadia Research Collective, whose biologists John Calambokidis and Jessie Huggins were among the experts and responders on the beach, is saying so far. They report that the “limited necropsy” done at the beach “revealed poor nutritional condition, multiple internal parasites, and internal injuries associated with the beaching event. The animal also had some killer whale bite marks on the jaw, and killer whales had been reported in the area the previous day. Samples will be submitted for a variety of analyses to determine if there were any other conditions that contributed to the stranding.”
This was the first time a whale had stranded on a West Seattle beach in six years, since the gray whale – also a juvenile female – that died in The Arroyos in April 2010. While her exact cause of death was not determined, the necropsy drew worldwide attention for turning up plastics and other trash in her stomach (here’s that report, also from Cascadia Research).