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Bloated, Dead Humpback Whale Filmed Offshore Before Washing Up on Oregon Coast's Nehalem Spit

Published 5/27/24 at 6:35 p.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Nehalem, Oregon) – A dead and bloated humpback whale body was seen floating off the north Oregon coast for about a day before it washed up early Monday between Rockaway Beach and Manzanita. It made landfall at Nehalem Bay Spit near Manzanita early in the morning, and responding to the scene were Seaside Aquarium, Oregon State Parks and Recreation (OPRD), Marine Mammal Stranding Network crew from Portland State University and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency Fisheries (NOAA). (Photo: still from video by Mike Ceccacci)

No clear sign of death was evident, and a more in-depth necropsy will be held this week by those from NOAA and PSU.

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, told Oregon Coast Beach Connection it was a sub-adult male about 33 feet in length.

I took drone footage of dead whale off the beach by Silver Sands

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“We pretty much just took external measurements today,” he said. “We didn't cut it open much. You couldn't see any sign of why it died, but we couldn't see the back.”

As to how long it had been dead, Chandler said that in spite of the bloating – which is often a sign a sea creature has been deceased for awhile – this one showed signs of only having died perhaps a few days ago.

“I've smelled worse,” Chandler told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “I think it was bloated because of the warmer water.”

This sighting was a bit unusual in that it had been spotted on Sunday floating offshore from Rockaway Beach.

Photo: OPRD

Mike Ceccacci, from southern Washington's Clark County, was there and managed to capture some stunning drone video of the creature floating near the town.

“The whale was visible most of Sunday although it was just a speck by the end of the day,” Ceccacci told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “It was about 4000 ft offshore, so with the naked eye we could not see what it was. It was drifting south and we were surprised when it came ashore north of us.”

Behind the scenes, responders like Seaside Aquarium get the heads up sometimes from fishermen or even the US Coast Guard that a whale is floating offshore and may come in. This is one of the few times it was documented by a beachgoer.

Mike Ceccacci

Meanwhile, OPRD said this part of Nehalem Bay State Park is a highly sensitive area for snowy plover nesting and they are asking the public to keep away.

Mike Ceccacci

“This means there is no access to the beach from the dry sand area where signs are posted and pets are not allowed,” OPRD said. “Watch for special signs or fences during nesting season (March 15 – Sept. 15) and follow the rules to help protect snowy plovers.”

NOAA had helped to disentangle a humpback whale from fishing gear in early May up on the Washington coast, but there is so far no evidence this was that same whale.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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