This amazing set of pictures arrived by email recently, along with this message. (Photos and message attributed to Mary Walsh):
“This is the adult female blue whale that was killed by boat propellers and washed up near the botanical gardens south of Fort Bragg [Mendocino County] last week. She is about 70 feet long. Female blue whales are the largest animals on earth, reaching 105 feet. This first photograph with only part of the whale showing with the house in the background gives an idea of her size. Jon Klein … [who has visited} the whale frequently, said she was "absolutely beautiful" at first and now she's "interesting." A friend of mine who lives in the vicinity told me that the smell is "gut wrenching." In the last photo you can see the bloating of her mid-section (stomach?)."
This is apparently the second blue whale to wash ashore in Northern California in the last two weeks. The first was off Monterey County. Both had apparently been hit by the propellers of large container ships. Prior to this the last one to wash ashore in the region was in 2007.
The Fort Bragg Advocate News reported: "According to National Marine Fisheries Service reports, the crew [nearby research vessel] Pacific Star reported that they had felt a shudder in the 78-foot vessel before spotting a surfacing whale nearby. Hours later, the whale drifted ashore south of Fort Bragg, still bleeding from wounds to its back. The Pacific Star is currently mapping the ocean floor to update the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s navigational maps
Photos by Mary Walsh