Huge Whale Washes Ashore in New York

This diagram shows the size of a finback whale (also known as a fin whale) compared with an elephant.

It’s more than ten times the size of the average human.

In fact, it’s the second-largest species on Earth.

Finback whales are normally seen in the deep ocean – deep enough that their huge bodies can swim easily and gracefully.

(Only the blue whale is larger.)

But on Wednesday, a 60-foot-long finback washed up on the beach at Breezy Point in New York City.

And it didn’t look good.

“Based on the body condition, it’s likely not to survive,” said Mendy Garron, a whale expert with the National Marine Fisheries Service, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Beached whales the size of a finback are a rare sight – even in New York City.

And a live beached whale is even rarer, experts say.

The experts who checked out this finback on Wednesday say the whale appeared to be too sick to survive for long.

And even though they estimated its weight at 60 tons, they say it was so underweight they could see its ribs.

(According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, finback whales can weigh up to 80 tons!)

Garron called it “very skinny,” according to the Journal.

Ironically, though, the whale is still so big that another serious problem threatened its life as soon as it washed up on the beach.

“The minute (large whales) get on the beach … their internal organs are being crushed by their weight,” Garron told the New York Times.

(In the ocean, the whale’s weight is not a problem.   That’s because the buoyant force of the water allows it to float, instead being pinned to the ocean floor by the force of gravity. Incidentally, “buoyant” means “able to keep something afloat.”)

And the very fact that the whale was off the coast of New York at this time of year is another problem.

Experts say finback whales migrate from the far North Atlantic (off the coast of eastern Canada) to the warm West Indies as the weather gets colder.

So this one was probably feeling too weak to head all the way down south.

Experts also say that finback whales are known to fast during the winter – at least until they get to warmer waters.

(“Fast” means they don’t eat.)

So that might be another reason why this whale appeared to be so skinny.

Unfortunately, scientists say they won’t know for sure why this whale beached itself unless it dies.

That way, they can do an animal version of an autopsy – which is known as a necropsy – to determine the cause of death.

On Wednesday, firefighters hosed the whale down to keep its skin wet, as a crowd of curious onlookers watched.

“It’s always another adventure,” Breezy Point resident Rosemary Keegan told the Times.

The Breezy Point neighborhood was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.

Now this.

“After everything else we’ve had out here,” Keegan told the Times, “you don’t know what to expect.”