The corpse of a 1-ton rare True’s beaked whale washed ashore Sunday in Southampton village, more than an hour after it was first spotted alive, thrashing around near the surf’s edge.
A man jogging along the beach near Gin Lane called the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Wildlife’s 24-hour hotline about 9 a.m. Sunday when he saw what he thought was a large dolphin beached near the shore, said Kim Durham, the foundation’s rescue program coordinator.
Durham said when the jogger returned to the beach shortly after making the initial report, he witnessed an unidentified man push the creature back into the water. It disappeared, she said, but roughly 90 minutes later, the jogger called again to say it was back on the beach.
When Durham and her team arrived at the scene about 12:30 p.m., she said the whale had already died.
Chris Brenner, second assistant chief for the Southampton Volunteer Fire Department, said Southampton Village Police had asked that he bring some firefighters to help load the animal onto the Riverhead Foundation’s truck. But they soon determined the whale was too large to move by hand.
“It was a really beautiful whale,” Brenner added.
Durham said it took two payloaders supplied by the Village of Southampton to lift the animal. Since the foundation’s truck wasn’t big enough, she said, the village also supplied a larger vehicle and transported the whale to Riverhead, where it will undergo an autopsy Monday.
Durham said the whale was an adult female and measured 15.5 feet long. Although it’s estimated to weigh more than a ton, she said it appeared to be “skinny,” suggesting that it was not in good health.
The whale did have some abrasions on its left side, Durham said, but no major cuts. Monday’s tests should determine the cause of death.
Durham said it's been years since a beaked whale has washed ashore on Long Island.
“It is pretty rare,” she said. “We don’t get many encounters with them, dead or alive.”
Durham said since the beaked whales tend to dwell very deep in the ocean, not much is known about them. For this reason, Durham said, the corpse will also be sent to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts for a CT scan.
“Anytime you get a specimen that hits the beach, it’s an opportunity to really learn about a type of whale we don’t know much about.”