The young humpback whale is pulled up onto Main Beach...

The young humpback whale is pulled up onto Main Beach in East Hampton after it died. (April 9, 2010) Credit: Doug Kuntz

No one's questioning anyone's intentions.

But the frantic three-day attempt to save a stranded humpback whale sure turned into a PR debacle for the marine-rescue specialists at the Riverhead Foundation.

And it wasn't just because the whale eventually died. Or even because of all the dead-not-dead confusion as the drama played out.

Slow to succumb, unable to be saved - with each valiant attempt, the results were stubbornly inconclusive. And the humans who were supposed to be in charge? Well, they all came off looking a little clueless.

The challenges were certainly genuine. The rough surf off East Hampton. The question of where to aim the tranquilizer darts. A jarring landing on Main Beach as hope began to fade. The seeming absence of any viable plan that offered hope.

And the crowds of onlookers. They included schoolchildren. What were they doing here?

And the real firepower came out. One blast from a .577-caliber rifle. And another. The tail of the whale was still twitching. Only with the third shot did the animal finally lie still.

And to punctuate the what-else-can-go-wrong narrative: A 2 1/2-foot tranquilizer dart was somehow lost in the surf, possibly still loaded with a potent cocktail of euthanizing chemicals. Where did it go? Would it soon wash ashore? Was it dangerous? No one could say for sure.

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation has a fine reputation. They have years of experience rescuing sea creatures of various sorts.

But after the grieving is over, this one could use some follow-up. What did we learn here? Could the whale have been saved? Will the results be any better next time? 

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Ellis' Long Islander of the Week: Valentina Janek

Long Island is teeming with unemployed and underemployed professionals - hardworking, talented people with proven track records who haven't found the positions they crave. Such is life in an anemic economy. At the Long Island Breakfast Club, they gather for advice, support, strategizing and job leads - and for lots of morale-boosting fun. If you're looking for work or for people to hire, why not join them? The group's "Blue Jeans & Jewels Don't Stop Believing Event" is Tuesday, April 27, at 6 p.m. at Eleanor Rigby's in Mineola. "This one is mostly for fun, although we're always networking," said Valentina Janek, founder, president and full-time morale-booster. "We have to keep the connections strong," Janek said. "That how people find jobs." Details at


1. Take another nap.

2. Lower the thermostat

3. Procrastinate

4. Do nothing

5. Do nothing some more.


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