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2007 Blue Whale Strandings

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  Blue Whale Stranding #SBMNH 2007-20



GENERAL INFORMATION

  • ID Tag: SBMNH 2007-20
  • Stranding Location: Near Platform Gail and floated to south of Platform Grace
  • Size: About 60-65 feet long
  • Gender: Sub-adult male
  • Cause of Death: Ship Strike
  • Necropsy: Completed September 22, 2007
     

TIMELINE

Wednesday,
September 19, 2007
Photo Credit: Tom Jacobs

At about 3:00 PM: First reported by private boater in the Santa Barbara Channel. Reported to be about 60 feet long.
Thursday,
September 20, 2007
 

At about 1:30 PM: Reported to have been at Platform Gail.

At about 4:45 PM: Located by Island Packers and reported to be about 70-75 feet long, fresh with no noticeable external trauma. Observers saw three  blue sharks and one great white shark feeding on the animal. Boat captain predicts animal will continue on course to Hobson/Faria area.

Friday,
September 21, 2007
 
At 9:00 AM: The whale was relocated by Island Packers to be floating off Platform Gail.

At 1:03 PM: The whale is floating south of Platform Grace.

At 3:00 PM: The whale is towed to Pt. Mugu Family Beach by Channel Water Marine of Ventura, CA.

 
Saturday,
September 22, 2007
At 6:30 AM: The whale arrives at Pt. Mugu.

At 5:00 PM: The necropsy is completed.

ABOUT THE NECROPSY
The necropsy of the third dead Blue Whale was completed Saturday, September 22, 2007 at about 5:00 PM. Some of the whale’s soft tissue remains were buried at Pt. Mugu Family Beach, but most of the carcass was towed by boat into the ocean's currents and released into the sea. Given the extent of the excavation of the whale, it is anticipated the carcass will fill with water and sink.

Preliminary results of the necropsy indicated that the whale died of a ship strike. The cranium was essentially smashed and there was extensive damage to the skeleton, such that during the excavation process broken ribs were falling out. The bones showed discoloration and uneven breaks indicating that the whale was alive at the point of impact with a large ship. Also, there were large dark stains in the muscle and tissue indicating that the whale bled internally and death was instant. There was no evidence of sonar damage found.

Standard measurements and collection of tissue and samples were completed. The data and samples will be processed for further analysis to help determine why the whale made impact with a large ship. A highlight of the necropsy was that the team collected fresh bone marrow giving the Museum potentially the first stem cells of a Blue Whale.


NEXT STEPS

As a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will coordinate the analysis of the samples and data. The Marine Mammal Stranding Network will be looking into the working theory about the role domoic acid may have had in these three Blue Whale deaths and strandings. To test for domoic acid, stomach contents, fecal and urine matter, and blood samples will be analyzed. The earliest results can be received is about four weeks from now.


NECROPSY TEAM

  • Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
    - Paul Collins, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology
    - Krista Fahy, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Zoology
    - Michelle Berman, Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Zoology & Marine Mammal Stranding Network Coordinator
    - Sam Fluitt, Volunteer
    - Jessica Waters, Videographer
    - Easter Moorman, Media Contact
  • The Marine Mammal Center
    - Frances Gulland, Director of Veterinary Science (Sausalito Office)
    - Greg Smith
  • Sea World (San Diego)
    - Judy St. Leger, Corporate Director of Veterinary Pathology
    - Lineke Begeman, Veterinary Student
  • Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute
    - Sam Dover, Chief Veterinarian and Executive Director
    - Ron & Barbara Barrett, Volunteers
    - Cherilyn Willoughby, Volunteer
  • Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
    - Jim Dines, Mammalology Collections Manager
     
  • Pt. Mugu Naval Base
    - Ron Dow, Director of the Environmental Division
    - Teri Reid, Public Affairs Officer
    - J.T. Hesse, Volunteer
    - Molly Thrash, Volunteer

    Special thanks to the Pt. Mugu Naval Base for offering their beach as the working site to complete the necropsy. Their timely and generous contribution allowed the necropsy team to collect fresh samples and data invaluable to the ongoing research efforts.

     

 

 

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