Ship collision, whale

From: MWilliamson (
Date: Sat Feb 22 2003 - 08:56:16 EST

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    Ship collision likely killed whale (Pilot Online/
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    Ship collision likely killed whale

    The sei whale, being necropsied by the Virginia Marine Science Museum's stranding team Thursday at the Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base beach. Photo by Steve Earley / The Virginian-Pilot.

    By DIANE TENNANT, The Virginian-Pilot
    © February 21, 2003

    VIRGINIA BEACH -- The whale found dead in the Elizabeth River this week was probably killed by a collision with a ship, scientists said Thursday after conducting a necropsy.

    The sei whale was nearly cut in half, possibly after being struck by the bow of a ship. Since this species is usually found in the open ocean, the whale could have been carried by the ship into the harbor, then dropped off after the ship slowed, said Sue Barco, a member of the the Virginia Marine Science Museum's stranding team.

    ``The examination is consistent with ship strike while the animal was alive,'' Barco said, citing bruises and hemorrhaging deep in the whale's tissue. This could have happened only if the heart was pumping blood into those areas, she said.

    A final determination of what caused the whale's death will have to wait for lab analysis of tissue samples.

    The Coast Guard found the dead whale Wednesday morning, floating in the river near Craney Island. It was first identified as a fin whale. The animal was fastened to a Navy vessel overnight, then brought to the beach at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base and pulled ashore by bulldozer. The museum's stranding team spent about five hours dissecting the whale. The carcass was buried on the beach, in a hole dug by the Seabees.

    Background Coverage:
    Coast Guard finds whale floating dead in river

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    Sei -- pronounced ``say'' -- whales are endangered, the museum said. Between 1,400 and 2,200 live in what is called the Nova Scotia stock. They were killed for meat and oil until 1986, although Iceland continued harvesting them into the 1990s, the museum said.

    The dead whale was a male, 36 feet long. Sei whales can grow up to 60 feet long and weigh 30 tons. Fast swimmers, they travel in groups of two to five, eating krill, squid and small fish. They can live as long as 70 years.

    Reach Diane Tennant at 446-2478 or

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