Update, 3:20 p.m.: The finback whale that washed up on a Napeague beach on Sunday morning will remain there until Monday morning, when the marine biologists plan to perform a necropsy.
Kim Durham, of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, who arrived to assess the whale carcass at about 2 p.m., said the whale was an adult female, about 57-feet long.
Meanwhile, shortly after the foundation arrived on Napeague, another call, for what turned out to be a baby whale, came in further west down the beach. Click here for that story.
She does not know yet what caused its death, as there are no external signs of blunt force trauma, though the whale's body came to rest on the shore on its left side. Ship strikes are the most commonly cause the deaths of whales that wash up in the area. "Right now, she's kind of suspicious," Durham said. Biologists took tissue samples Sunday afternoon.
Finbacks are documented in the waters off Long Island this time of year, tough how close to the shore depends on the location of its food source. A finback whale washed up on a Breezy Point beach late last month. That whale, which was underweight, turned out to have kidney disease and parasites, Durham said.
The finback that came ashore Sunday is of normal weight — between 40 and 50 tons, she said.
Durham thinks it has been dead no more than two weeks. The cold waters, she said, help refrigerate it from decomposing too much. Usually, she said the foundation is alerted by the Coast Guard or ships that a dead whale is floating around, but this time they received no calls before it washed up.
It has some scars on its fluke, or tail, evidence that it became entangled on a net sometimes in its life, Durham said. It also shows signs of scavengers — fish and birds.
Heavy equipment will have to move the whale closer to the dunes so that Durham and her team can perform the necropsy. They will examine its internal organs, dissecting the whale into about four pieces — which will also make it easier to remove from the beach.
Throngs of people went to take in the sight of the dead whale, many bringing their children. Some took pictures in front of it, others touched it skin, and even inside of its mouth.
"We haven't ruled out disease as a cause of death," Durham said, adding there is also decomposition bacteria.
Also, she noted that finback whales are endangered species and it is illegal to harvest any part of it.
Previously: A dead whale washed up on the ocean beach on Napeague, just east of the Windward Shores condominiums, on Sunday morning.
"It's a big one — maybe 50 to 60 feet long," said Ed Michels, the chief harbormaster, who responded after the whale was reported at about 8:30 or 9 a.m., he said.
It appears to have been dead for some time.
The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation responded to assess the whale.
While Michels said he believed it was a humpback whale, approximately 30 tons in weight, the Riverhead Foundation said it was an adult, female finback whale.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said Marine Patrol officers are stationed on the beach until the foundation arrives. "We will handle it procedurally and operationally, as we hae done for unfortunate whale deaths in the past," he said.
Highway and sanitation department officials went to the beach to assess the situation on Sunday morning. "We will need outside equipment to properly dispose of the whale, as soon as the remains are released," by the marine mammal experts, Wilkinson said.
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The South Fork has seen several whales wash up on the coast in recent years.
In August 2012, a 57-foot dead fin whale washed up just east of Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays, after it was seen floating out in the Atlantic Ocean earlier in the day. The whale, which was also badly decomposed, had injuries consistent with being struck by a ship.
An adult pygmy sperm whale was discovered dead on the shore in West Hampton Dunes in May of 2012. The 9-foot whale was underweight at about 800 pounds.
Back in July 2011, an injured sperm whale washed up on the rocky shore in Montauk. It died several hours later. At one-year-and-a-half old calf, it weighed 2.5 tons and measured 18 feet long, making the task of removing it extremely difficult. An excavator hoisted the whale off the rocky shore and placing it in a large Dumpster, which was then carted away so that a necropsy could be conducted before it was buried.
Many remember all too well the young humpback whale that became stranded on an East Hampton Village beach in March 2010. Despite attempts to save the animal, it was eventually euthanized.