The 67-foot fin whale that washed up dead near the mouth of San Diego Bay was being moved out to the Pacific Ocean today.
San Diego lifeguards took advantage of the unusually high tide to tow the carcass from Fiesta Island about 8 a.m., lifeguard Chief Rick Wurts said.
The 12-mile trip was estimated to last about seven hours, with crews sinking the whale around late afternoon at the earliest, Wurts said.
A large catamaran, funded in part by Richard Branson’s Virgin Oceanic organization, was towing the remains about five miles west of La Jolla, where it would be sunk in about 800 meters of water by adding “several tons” of steel, executive director of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Nigella Hillgarth
The chosen site was near the Scripps Submarine Canyon, and Scripps Institute of Oceanography scientists would be able to study the whale as it decomposes to find out how a new ecosystem forms around it, a process which could last several years, Hillgarth said.
“There are all these organisms that only live on whale carcasses that turn up,” Hillgarth said. “Hopefully we’ll get really exciting information from that.”
Fin whales, found in oceans all over the world, were nicknamed the “greyhound of the sea” because they can swim as fast as 23 mph, are the second-largest species of whale and can grow up to 75 feet and weigh 70 tons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Taking fin whales, prized for their oil, was largely banned by 1976. North Pacific fin whales off the California and Oregon coasts are estimated to number around 2,500.