On Monday, Sept. 20, a dead whale’s body washed ashore at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. The 47-foot-long carcass could be any of the extremely rare and endangered whales. Nobody, not even marine biologists from the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Marine Mammal Center and the California Academy of Sciences, could figure out the exact species because it was so badly decomposed. Most likely, the whale could either be a fin or sei whale.
Marine biologists took several samples of the dead whale’s tissues for further studies. The whale’s badly gnawed and decomposed state also did not leave any clue of the cause of death; however, some speculate that a sea vessel may have hit it, just like the whale hit by a container ship traveling from Los Angeles to the port of Oakland on Sept. 16. Boaters should not travel within 100 yards of a whale; however, in some cases, they ignore this directive, leading to cetacean casualties.
Meanwhile, the putrid remains stayed ashore until authorities made plans for its burial. The chosen spot was just a few feet from where it laid for several days. Finally, after tractors dug a deep hole in the sand, the whale was transferred to its final resting place on Wednesday, Sept. 23. It was uneventful, but a somber sight to behold. Many passersby took some videos and photos. Many stayed on until the sand completely enveloped the whale’s body. To animal lovers, particularly those who love marine animals, it was another sad day. Some may have shed some tears as they witnessed three tractors pushing the body into the hole. Shedding tears for another cetacean perishing in sea and washing ashore at the Ocean Beach.
Now that Ocean Beach is a burial site for the dead whale, what kind of impact does this have on the environment? Some wonder, especially those who frequent the beach, if the hole was deep enough to cover the stench that comes from the decomposed carcass. If you live around the area, you may be familiar with methods the city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy are implementing to keep the Ocean Beach clean. In addition, groups such as San Francisco Clean City Coalition, Ocean Beach Cleanup & Stewardship, and other volunteers try to keep and advocate the preservation and cleanliness of Ocean Beach. Thanks to the operators of the tractors and bulldozers adding more sand and compactly tamping the grounds to prevent the sand from sinking and the odor from escaping, people should not be to worry about the environmental impact.
It is advisable that people walking close to the burial site not tamper with it. Dog owners should not let their dogs dig in the sand. Dogs have sensitive noses, and they can get curious, so be wary. For now, let nature takes its course until the unknown whale’s body disintegrates and becomes one with the sand.