While everyone here at Pillar Point RV Park has been abuzz with whale sightings as the huge animals head north with their babies, whale sightings took a sad turn today.  

The bloated carcass, floating belly up, of a less than a year old Humpback whale washed ashore on the beach just down from the RV Park.    The day started with a sighting of a large pod of whales blowing spouts and making lazy dives.   Shortly after, we spotted a floating blob way out by the entrance to the harbor.   We strained  with our binoculars to see and try to figure out what that was.

As the object was carried closer, it slammed into the jetty and we could see it was a young humpback whale about 25 feet long.

The Marine Mammal Center came to see what shape the whale was in and try to figure out where it might make land.    Once low tide hits, they want to perform a necropsy to find out how the whale died.   After that, the whale will hopefully wash out to sea  with the next high tide.

Look at the barnacles that had attached themselves to the whales "chin"....

It wasn't long before the news trucks started showing up!   Young men in suits with microphones started interviewing people in the now accumulating crowd.   Traffic on Highway One got congested and soon three patrol cars were there to keep cars moving.

The faces of the kids were touching when they learned the whale was dead.  There was so much love and concern for the young animal.   

No word yet on what is going to happen to the body of the whale if it doesn't go out with the tide.

Humpback Whales

Check out the baleen on the whale. 

Humpback whales feed on tiny shrimp-like krill, plankton, and small fish.   Instead of teeth, they have baleen, which are scrub brush like plates made of keratin, just like fingernails and hair.  Humpbacks can take in huge amounts of food and while the baleen lets the water out, it traps the food in the whale's mouth.

Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters, and migrate to tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks live off their fat reserves.  These whales migrate nearly 16,000 miles a year.

It is estimated there are 80,000 Humpback Whales in the world today.

TV Report

Here is some of the raw video I took of the whale up against the rocks on Surfer's Beach

It's Thursday morning and the tide has taken the baby whale to the middle of the bay.   It can still easily been seen from Highway One or from Pillar Point RV Park.  Thursday afternoon:  The baby whale is back along the rocks on Highway One and making its way down to Surfer's Beach.     Here are some more photos from today:

According to State Game Officials, this whale has not been attacked by a shark.  If he had, there would have been considerable damage to the fins and fluke.  In this photo, you can see they are in good shape. 

If you look closely, you can see the whale's eye.  Remember it is floating upside down.

Pillar Point Harbor Patrol checking out the situation...


Today is Friday, May 23rd.  The whale has finally landed on the beach and the tide is out. Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences have arrived and are conducting a necropsy on the animal to see if they can determine what her cause of death was.

Sue Pemberton, a dead marine mammal responder is in charge of the crew.   Here are the photos from today's event.

The gasses that puffed up the whale have escaped and now the young female has the shape you would expect to see.  She is still upside down.

The researchers begin their work on the whale.

They peel the layer of blubber back in order to get to the internal organs.

Here is Sue taking tissue samples and putting them in plastic bags. 

Seagulls putting out the call dinner is on the beach!  We saw a number of seagulls go in for some juicy bits even as the researchers were working on the whale.

Knee deep in the whale.  The researchers were trying to get to the whale's backbone to see if there were any broken bones.  At the end of the examination, Sue suggested that due to bruising around the head, that the whale may have been struck by a boat or ship.    Since the whale had been dead for about a week before it ran aground, the insides were pretty decomposed and were no good to researchers to determine if there was any disease in the animal.  While they said they may never know what killed the whale, chances are it died from blunt force trauma.

After working several hours, it's lunch time and the researchers chow down on burritos....right next to the whale.   It's rather amazing because the smell of the whale at this point is overwhelming and noticeable up to half a mile away.

The research is done.    Because of the Memorial Day Weekend, and Surfer's Beach being such a popular place, it was decided that the whale be towed out to sea.   In not so populated areas, the whale would have been left to decompose where it landed.  You can see the rope tied around its tail and ready to be picked up by a boat.

The beach here is not very deep and high tide brings big waves crashing onto the rocks.  That makes for dangerous conditions for anyone on the boat or in the water.  Here is a slide show that documents the whale's final trip to sea.  By the way, the surfer in the photos is none other than Jeff Clark, who rode "Mavericks" for the first time in 1975 when he was the only one who would brave the coasts' biggest waves.   Clark is also the creator of the Mavericks International Surf Contest held just off Pillar Point every year.   Here is the link to his surf shop: http://jeffclarkmavericks.com/

  1. Susan Bass Good reporting Pamela! Although it's a sad event, never a dul moment at PP! Hopefully the zoologist a were able to learn something from the remains.
    on 05/24/2014
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