California, USA


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  • Date: 18-Aug-2005

  • Location: Half Moon Bay, California, USA

  • Species: Humpback whale

  • Category: Putrefaction (did not explode)

First things first: the whale in this incident did not actually explode, but we’ve classified it as another exploding whale because government officials were so concerned that it might do so (naturally) that they were actually warning people to stay away. So what happened? In this incident, a dead 30-40 foot juvenile humpback whale washed ashore in Half Moon Bay, California. While most of the carcass had collapsed in on itself and lay flattened in the surf, the whale’s stomach had filled with gases and fluids and had expanded so much that it looked like it might explode. Eventually, the buildup of pressure in the stomach dissipated non-violently. Disposal of the whale was a major problem as none of the city, state, and federal governments were willing to take responsibility. Eventually, the carcass was carried back out to sea, only to reappear nearby a few weeks later.

Whale washes ashore, carcass poses danger

A dead humpback whale that recently washed ashore on Poplar Beach could be something of a time bomb, officials say. (John Green – STAFF)
08/18/2005 07:42:24 AM

Swelling stomach of the animal could explode as gases build up; officials unsure of what to do

By T.S. Mills-Faraudo, STAFF WRITER

HALF MOON BAY — A dead humpback whale that recently washed ashore on Poplar Beach could be something of a time bomb, officials say.

As it decomposes, gases are building up in the stomach of the 30- to 40-foot juvenile whale that could cause it to explode, said Ranger Nelle Lyons of the Half Moon Bay State Park ranger station.

Cmdr. Lon Waxstein of the Half Moon Bay Police Department said the dead whale likely came ashore Sunday because that’s when people starting calling about it.

It is unknown how the animal died.

Figuring out what to do with the massive carcass has become something of a dilemma, Waxstein said.

“I think everybody is hoping the tide will take it out and it will become someone else’s problem,” he said.

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Waxstein said, is supposed to coordinate efforts to remove the whale. Officials from the sanctuary did not return several phone calls Wednesday.

In the meantime, state park officials have placed signs on the beach advising people not to go near the whale. Also, Lyons said, people should not go in the water near the carcass because it could attract sharks.

When whales wash ashore, they are typically either buried, towed out to sea or left to decompose on the beach, Waxstein said.

“It’s probably going to take some time to coordinate what to do with it,” he said. “This is a big problem because it’s a big animal, and it’s not like the humane society can take it away.”

© 2005 The Argus

Humpback Whale Washes Ashore In Half Moon Bay

Aug 18, 2005 9:12 am US/Pacific

Reporting by Mike Sugerman

(CBS 5) A dead humpback whale has washed ashore in Half Moon Bay.

Internal gasses are blowing the dead whale up like a balloon, but officials say it probably won’t explode as the cool weather is keeping the expansion at a minimum.

Our tale begins several days ago when the young whale — less than a year old and 25 to 30 feet long — came to rest on Poplar Beach. Since then, Poplar has become very popular.

“My brother heard it on the news this morning so we came down from Redwood City,” said Bob Martin. “My son has never seen a dead whale before, and a chance like this don’t happen all the time.”

There’s nothing to let people know they shouldn’t get near it, but they shouldn’t. There’s bacteria and chances that sharks may come by for a snack, which neighbors say has already happened. In the meantime, souvenir hunters have already begun taking souvenirs — like the whale’s vertebrae that had washed ashore separately.

“I put it in my backyard. I love going down to the beach and collecting shells and stuff. This is a real treasure,” said Jerry Lewis of Half Moon Bay.

So what’s going to happen to this whale, and who is in charge of getting rid of it? I called the city of Half Moon Bay, and they said it was the federal government’s problem, and gave me a phone number to call. At that number, they told us it was a state park, so we should talk to state officials. The state parks office said it was not a state beach, and that we should call the city of Half Moon Bay. I called the city again, but they said again it was a federal problem. There is a possibility that the carcass will drift off to sea on its own.

© 2005 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Dead Whale To Stay In Half Moon Bay For Now

Aug 19, 2005 1:46 pm US/Pacific

(CBS 5) A dead whale that washed ashore in Half Moon Bay will remain on the beach at least throughout the weekend.

The 3000-pound humpback calf carcass appeared at Poplar beach over the weekend. This afternoon, park rangers tried to drag the carcass out to sea, but the rope broke, and the harbor patrol boat that was helping with the removal is busy with other events through the weekend.

Park rangers are warning the public to stay away from the area.

© 2005 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Humpback whale disappears from beach


By Patrick May
Mercury News

As authorities fretted over how to remove a dead humpback whale from the beach at Half Moon Bay, the whale apparently took care of the problem itself.

It disappeared.

“He’s no longer on our beach,” Half Moon Bay Police Cmdr. Lon Waxstein said Tuesday morning. “We don’t know where he went, but we believe the ocean reclaimed him.”

The vanishing act by the whale, its decomposing corpse stranded at Half Moon Bay State Beach since Aug. 14, brought a collective sigh of relief to the park rangers, state officials, police, and whale advocates all trying to figure out who should tug the carcass out to sea.

After a jurisdictional struggle over who was responsible for its disposal, a plan to tow the whale hit a wall Friday when the rope broke and high tide retreated. A second attempt was to have started as early as Tuesday. Now it’s moot.

“End of story,” said Waxstein, “unless it washes back up. And anything is possible.”

© 2005 The Mercury News

Dead Whale Revisits Half Moon Bay

The carcass washed out, and then rolled back this week, settling below The Ranch at Half Moon Bay.
Aug 26, 2005 6:36 pm US/Pacific

Reporting by Sue Kwon

(CBS 5) Under the summer sun, tucked around a cove at Redondo Beach in Half Moon Bay, the sparking waves crash over a 30-foot-long tourist attraction.

“It’s amazing to see a dead whale,” said tourist Gloria Dufrense. “I’m from Canada, and I’ve never been up close to a whale.”

The young humpback is actually revisiting Half Moon Bay. It first appeared on nearby Poplar Beach two weeks ago. It washed out, and then rolled back this week, settling below The Ranch at Half Moon Bay, where Bob Smith hosts executive meetings.

“It’s our visitor. We’re calling it stinky,” said Smith. “I smelled it Tuesday. I smelled it first and then saw it. It’s gamy. And then the sun came up… I was ready for a fish fry.”

It’s actually a mammal, but regardless, Smith is ready to see it go, and he imagines his neighbors are, too. One of those neighbors is the Ritz Carlton. A spokesperson says visitors have not been able to smell the visitor yet. But it has caused problems at the adjacent golf course. One golfer was hit by a wayward ball, apparently because he was distracted by the new scenery below the 18th hole.

It’s quite a show from any angle. But as the carcass ripens, even the gawkers say the visitor has overstayed its welcome.

“Someone should be here to clean it up,” said Dufresne.

Research volunteers plan to help state park officials move the carcass early next week. Meanwhile, scientists are examining a tissue sample, which could help tell the tale of how the whale came to rest along the shore in Half Moon Bay.

© 2005 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

How not to dispose of a dead whale

Aug 18, 05 at 10:20 am

By Barry Parr

So, you’ve got a dead what on your beach. What now? On November 12, 1970, a dead sperm whale was rotting on a beach in southern Oregon. The Oregon highway department decided that the best way to dispose of a dead whale was the same way they’d deal with an immovable boulder–with explosives.

There is a website with dramatic footage of the big day and a Dave Barry column about the event1. From the column:

So they moved the spectators back up the beach, put a half-ton of dynamite next to the whale and set it off. I am probably not guilty of understatement when I say that what follows, on the videotape, is the most wonderful event in the history of the universe. First you see the whale carcass disappear in a huge blast of smoke and flame. Then you hear the happy spectators shouting ‘Yayy!’ and ‘Whee!’ Then, suddenly, the crowd’s tone changes. You hear a new sound like ‘splud.’ You hear a woman’s voice shouting ‘Here come pieces of… MY GOD!’ Something smears the camera lens.

The State Parks folks recommend staying away from the dead whale in Half Moon Bay. That’s good advice. Last year, according to the same site, ‘A dead 56-foot sperm whale exploded while being transported through a Taiwanese city. Buildings, vehicles, and people were showered with blood and entrails. The explosion was caused by the build-up of gases brought on by decomposition.’

© 2005 Coastsider


  1. The URL for the website has been updated.

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