Stranded Gray Whale on Seattle Beach
Witnessing the death of a giant gray whale on a Seattle beach what and most fascinating and tragic wildlife experiences I have had. I randomly stumbled upon a Facebook post talking about the whale. It was the fourth beached whale in Puget Sound in recent weeks. As soon as I saw the location, I immediately headed to Arroyo Beach in West Seattle beach where the whale was reported. To my surprise, I was able to find the 37-ft beached whale quite quickly. It’s not uncommon for a Gray whale to die and end up on a beach during their migration. Each year the whales migrate from southern breeding grounds to their Alaskan feeding grounds.
I would later find out that the whale had died with a large amount of trash in his stomach. This indicated the whale was feeding in the polluted Puget Sound waters. Among the things in his belly were 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweatpants, plastic pieces, duct tape, a golf ball and more. The trash would later be put into an aquarium to show the world the huge amount of trash found in his stomach.
Stranded Whale Had Trash in His Stomach
The whale was absolutely fascinating to check out up close. There were gashes along the whale’s thick skin probably caused by orcas or killer whales. The skin itself was fascinating, being covered in barnacles of all sizes and other types of animals living on his hide. The barnacles were amazing, it looked so painful and I wonder if the whales feel them burrowing several inches deep into their skin. The whale also had a large number of whale lice. These are strange-looking amphipods that live on the whale. It’s incredible to see the micro-ecosystems that live on a whale. In college, I had learned about whale falls, which is when a whale dies and sinks to the seafloor, and completely alters the ecosystem there for years or decades to come. Also fascinating was seeing the baleen on the whale up close, it’s such a fascinating adaptation.
It was also very emotional soon. One girl came with flowers to offer the dead well. Other people were touching the whale and closing their eyes. I saw more than one person weeping at the site. Eventually, the tide came up, and researchers towed the whale carcass away from the public beach to a private location to decompose.
Learn more about whale beachings on the Cascadia website.
Read about this whale stranding event.