In a relatively rare sighting, a dead minke whale, with its diaphragm pushed outside of its mouth, washed ashore Sunday on Long Beach Peninsula, Pacific County, about a quarter mile north of Klipsan Beach Approach.
The whale had died before washing ashore, with gases from decomposition building up inside the animal. Once the whale reached the beach, the pressure from the gases combined with its own weight pushed its diaphragm outside of its mouth, causing the balloon-like shape at the head of the whale, said Tiffany Boothe, an administrative assistant at Seaside Aquarium, who took the video and photos seen here.
Seaside Aquarium, based in Seaside, Ore., along with Portland State University, are coordinators in dealing with marine mammals that wash up in northern Oregon and southern Washington.
While minke whales, one of the smallest of baleen whales, are one of the more common whales in the area, “we don’t see them very often because of their size and the fact that they tend to stay offshore,” Boothe said.
This whale, which Boothe estimated at about 18 feet long, washed ashore at about 11 a.m. Sunday. The diaphragm outside of its mouth has since deflated, Boothe said.
Those wanting to see the whale are discouraged from touching it because it can carry disease, Boothe said. It’s also illegal to remove any tissue from a dead marine animal, she added.
A team from Seaside Aquarium and Portland State University plan to perform a necropsy Wednesday to determine the cause of death as well as its health.
If a full skeleton can be recovered, the skeleton can then be donated to a school or research program, Boothe said. If that can’t be done, and if the whale is not sick or diseased, it will likely be left on the beach – a good source of nutrition for wildlife there, she said. If the whale is found to be diseased, it will likely be removed and buried.