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Dead Whale Moving in Mysterious Ways on N. Oregon Coast: And No, It's Not a Zombie

Published 02/03/22 at 5:26 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Dead Whale Moving in Mysterious Ways on N. Oregon Coast - And No, It's Not a Zombie

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – Back just before Christmas, a deceased baby whale washed ashore in a secluded, rarely-walked section of Cannon Beach on the north Oregon coast, causing a small stir among scientists. The juvenile humpback whale had been dead for some time and thus was quite decayed and foul-smelling, but it was of great interest to those studying local whale populations. (All photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe / Seaside Aquarium)

After poking around it a little bit (there was not much to be done in such an advanced state of decay) the decision was made to just let the carcass sit and get eaten by local wildlife. It was, after all, in a section of Oregon coast not traversed much.

Now, over a month later, the deceased cetacean is acting like a zombie: it's moving southward. The most recent sighting has it almost a mile from its original spot just north of Silver Point. Currently, the baby humpback has worked its way south. It's resting north of Arcadia Beach.

Yet Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe is not fazed by this mysteriously shifting corpse, and not concerned about it being a member of the Walking Dead. Though it has ceased to be, though it is now an ex-whale, it's the tides that are moving it around.

“The run of big waves and storms we've had lately has moved it southward,” Boothe said.

Waves pick this one up, toss it around and then dump it ever-more southward. They can transport a lot of large things in impressive ways, such as at Nedonna Beach at Rockaway Beach.

“The humpback whale that washed ashore north of Silver Point has been making its way south,” Boothe said. “It is currently on the north end of Arcadia beach. The larger bones you see protruding from the front of the whale are its jaw bones.”

The baby humpback will continue to rot on the Oregon coast for a few more months at least. If it ends up washing up in a high traffic area, regional authorities may have to purposefully bury it.

“So how long does it take for a whale to decompose on the beach?,” Boothe said. She and aquarium manager Keith Chandler put this to the test awhile back on the Washington coast.

“It varies depending on the size, condition, and time of year,” Boothe said. “We documented a gray whale that washed ashore on the north end of the Long Beach peninsula. It took approximately eight months for the whale to decompose.”

The cold conditions keep it from smelling too badly, but this could elongate the process well into the spring.

In the meantime, you should not touch the whale as it could make you sick. Keep pets away from it as dogs can get seriously ill from a deceased corpse in such a state of decay.

Humpbacks are rather common off the Oregon coast and Washington coast, Boothe said, so these corpses do wash up now and then.

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Below: photos from the original stranding spot in December

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