11/26/2014

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Local & Regional

Massive whale washes ashore on Wash. coast

Massive whale washes ashore on Wash. coast
BURIEN, Wash. - Hundreds of people showed up Sunday to get a good look at a dead fin whale that washed ashore at Seahurst Park in Burien.

The whale washed up Saturday morning, and biologists believe the whale was either dragged or drifted ashore. It may have been dead for as long as a week.

Experts say it's rare to see a fin whale in Puget Sound, but now this dead one at Seahurst Park is attracting a crowd.

"One thing is that it stinks," says David Sommerfield of Auburn. "I've always wanted to see a whale close-up, but I guess a live one would have been better."

Carol Berry and her husband Dennis came from Puyallup to see the whale's carcass. They went whale watching in Langley a couple of days ago but didn't have much luck.

Now they're finally seeing one up close - but not how they hoped.

"I always thought that a whale would feel like an inner tube and it does," says Dennis Berry.

Others say the whale feels like hard plastic or a vinyl couch.

But the most common response:

"It's sad it's dead, but it's pretty cool to see how big it is, and it's surprisingly soft," says Camille Mathews.

Biologists say it is an adult fin whale. They estimate it was likely about 65 feet long when alive, but they don't know the exact size because more than half of the whale's body is missing.

"That's what makes it amazing. It's this huge with only half of the body," says one visitor, Jeff Fann.

Experts believe a ship may have hit the whale - there are signs of trauma and bruising on the whale's body along with red paint, likely from the bow of the ship.

"It almost leaves you speechless, because it's sad, you know, that such a beautiful creature is dead like this. But then it's like, wow, it's breathtaking actually,' says visitor Sina Jamison.

It's still unclear what's going to happen with the whale's remains.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is trying to find a school or museum that might be interested in the whale's skull. Otherwise, they'll work with the city of Burien to dispose of the carcass.

In the meantime, biologists say, ship strikes are a growing concern because of higher speeds and larger sizes of the ships.
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