Dead Whale Shuts Down Central Oregon Coast
|Photo courtesy Oregon Parks and Recreation.
(Florence, Oregon) - Two legendary sections of the Oregon
coast were shut down Sunday due to a whale that died in the area and washed
The saga began on Friday as a whale was spotted moving
awkwardly in the waters near Heceta Head State Scenic Viewpoint and its
famed lighthouse. U.S. Coast Guard authorities and marine biologists kept
an eye on it all weekend, as it seemed stranded in the breakers at various
Authorities briefly rejoiced as it seemed to break free
and begin swimming again, and was seen as late as Sunday still moving
in the ocean near Heceta Head. Later that day it washed up dead at Devil’s
Elbow State Park..
Concerns about traffic in the narrow drive into the park
and limited space on the beach itself contributed to the decision of shutting
down the park by Oregon State Parks and Recreation, along with possible
safety problems stemming from touching a dead animal from the sea as well
as injury from the surf. Devil’s Elbow State Park will be shut down
until further notice, which also means Heceta Head Lighthouse will be
inaccessible since that is the only entrance to the lighthouse.
|The whale spent some time beached on this extremely inaccessible
cove just south of the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
It turns out the whale is an endangered species, which
gives even more reason to keep the public away from the corpse. Federal
law also states it is illegal to tamper with, alter or dispose of a whale
Jim Rice, with the Hatfield Marine Science Center and the
central coast branch of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, originally
thought it was a sei whale (pronounced “say”).
After closer examination, Rice told regional media it’s
a fin whale, which is rarely seen up close – certainly on shore
in this region.
The Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is also called the
Finback Whale, Razorback, or Common Rorqual, and is a marine mammal belonging
to the suborder of baleen whales.
Rice theorized that it was sick or injured for some time,
and probably did not have the energy to get itself out of the surf zone.
He said it appeared underweight, a sign it had not been feeding properly
for a while.
The Fin Whale is the second largest living animal on Earth
next to the Blue Whale. It has a long and slender body that is gray and
a pale underside.
|Heceta Head Lighthouse
They live in all the world’s major oceans, but are
divided into two species: the Northern Fin Whale of the North Atlantic,
and the larger Antarctic Fin Whale of the Southern Ocean. They tend to
stick to cooler waters.
The Fin Whale was hunted extensively during the last century
and became endangered. The International Whaling Commission issued a moratorium
on hunting this species, although Iceland and Japan have indicated they
would ignore this.
The whale will likely be buried in the sand if it does
not wash out back into the ocean, which authorities are hoping for.
Florence is the notorious location of the “exploding
whale” episode of 1970. Back then, the Highway Department (which
later became Oregon Department of Transportation) decided the best way
to get rid of a massive whale carcass was to dynamite one side of it,
which in theory was supposed to send the blasted chunks towards the ocean.
Instead, as seen in what is perhaps one of the most famous
Internet downloads of all time, it simply blew chunks of the whale all
over the crowd, including a disgusting mist of whale guts. One large chunk
totaled a car in the nearby parking lot.
can be seen in better quality on KATU's website.
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