GOLD BEACH, Ore. (AP) — A 78-foot long dead blue whale weighing over 100 tons washed ashore this week north of Gold Beach.
The Register-Guard reports (http://goo.gl/G680ZQ ) researchers are working to harvest the skeleton of the marine mammal which is rarely seen in Oregon.
"We don't usually see blue whales this close in," said Calum Stevenson, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department ocean shores specialist. "They are not even on our radar for Whale Watch because they are so uncommon."
The emaciated whale was dead for about two weeks before it washed onto the sandy beach Monday 10 miles north of Gold Beach and about 70 miles south of Coos Bay.
Stevenson theorizes the whale could have become weakened by El Niño and the Pacific Decadal oscillation. Resulting ocean warming that can harm marine life upon which blue whales feed.
"The blubber layer was emaciated — 4 inches or less," Stevenson said, noting a healthy blue whale has blubber up to 12 inches. "It wasn't in great shape. It may have been weakened, and then attacked by the predators."
Researchers plan to take the skeleton to the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute for educational display.
Workers have been cutting and peeling back layers of blubber from the skeleton, and had removed most of it by Friday. That was the easy part of the job, Stevenson said.
"Now they're down to the muscle and meat," he said.
Work could take into next week.
"It's a nice day on the beach aside from the smell," he said Friday. "It's pretty bad."