A dead 55-foot finback whale washed ashore on Duxbury Beach Monday morning, and marine biologists and beach officials are working to remove the mammal to perform a necropsy, officials said.
A team of veterinarians and biologists from the New England Aquarium arrived at Duxbury Beach by around noon to do a preliminary exam on the whale and take measurements. Officials from the Duxbury Beach Reservation will roll the whale over using heavy equipment to give the biologists an opportunity to find clues about the nature of the whale’s death, said Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium.
The whale will be towed to an area of higher ground along the beach so that biologists can continue their work without having to worry about the tides coming in and out. Once on higher ground, the aquarium team will perform a necropsy and the carcass will be buried, LaCasse said.
Finback whales are the second-longest whales in the region, behind only the blue whale. They are known for their long, streamlined bodies that can reach up to 75 feet and are usually gray with a slightly lighter underside. They are often called the greyhounds of the sea because they can swim at particularly high rates of speed, LaCasse said.
They are also a favorite among whale watchers in Massachusetts, who see finback whales more than any other whale species, other than humpback whales. They feed on schooling fish like herring and mackerel, LaCasse said.
“Sometimes, they will cruise alongside whale watching boats, but they’ll never present their tail,” LaCasse said.
This particular whale carcass was seen in the water on Sunday, about eight miles east of Marshfield, LaCasse said. Strong winds blowing toward the shore likely pushed the carcass onto the beach early Monday morning.
Duxbury Beach sees more whales wash onto its shores than any other beach on mainland Massachusetts, LaCasse said.
“It’s a very long beach that’s really out there, so that’s where currents tend to deposit carcasses,” he said.
The aquarium’s team will take dozens of tissue samples throughout the necropsy and send them to labs across the country for examination, but the cause of death, if it was natural, will not be known for weeks or even months, if it’s even determined, LaCasse said.Andres Picon can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andpicon.