Scientists conducting a necropsy of a dead whale that washed up in Rye Monday say they have yet to find any indication of what killed the 18-year-old humpback. They found no sign of a hematoma, which would have indicated that the whale had been struck by a ship, but they would continue to take tissue samples to see if any disease can be detected.
Tony LaCasse, with the New England Aquarium, says the necropsy will also sample the whales gastro-intestinal juices for biotoxins. In 1989, more than a dozen humpback whales died after feeding on mackerel off George’s Bank were poisoned after the fish they were eating became contaminated with Red Tide, a microorganism that can be toxic.
Though the number of visitors had begun to dwindle by Tuesday afternoon, thousands of New Englanders have come to Rye to check out the whale carcass. With backhoes and front-end loaders working on hauling away parts of the whale, anyone wanting to watch the process was kept at a distance.
And for good reason.
“They are very sharp knives, it's very gooey stuff,” explained Wendy Lull, President of the Seacoast Science Center, “It's not something that you want to touch or swallow or eat or breathe if you have to.”
LaCasse says humpback whales can live to be fifty years old. “She probably would be the equivalent of a young-healthy adult woman in her late twenties or early thirties, right at the prime of her life, and to have passed away unexpectedly is a surprise. “
He says the team will announce any discoveries they make once they have test results in hand.