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Blue Whale

 

In July of 2002, I kept hearing the local news talk about a blue whale that had died and was floating off the coast of San Francisco. Blue whales, the largest creatures on earth, are rarely seen, especially by land-lubbers like me. Supposedly the whale had gotten too close to a passing ship.  Mortally wounded by the propeller, it was now slowly floating towards shore. It's terrible that the animal was killed.  That said, I was very curious to see what the whale looked like and how large it actually was. Each time the whale was spotted, the local news ran a story, but never got off their lazy butts to go shoot pictures or some video footage. Thanks for nothing.

At the end of the week, the whale had finally washed up on a remote beach in Marin. I was bored and decided I would go see this whale for myself. Completely under-dressed and ignorant of the whale's exact location, I rode my R6 over the Golden Gate Bridge early on a Sunday morning. I stopped by the local Park Ranger station to get more details. One of the rangers told me that he and some others had hiked down to the whale's location the evening before. He said the whale was tiny and unimpressive. I sensed he was trying to talk me out of my plan, but I pressed on. He gave me a small map and the general vicinity of the whale.

I parked at Rodeo Beach and started hiking along the cliffs that line the coast. After about 30 minutes of mildly strenuous hiking, I looked down from the cliff I was on and spotted the whale on a distant beach further up the coast. It was enormous. I had to get down there and see it. There was no path leading there, so I had to make my way through a lot of brush and down 2 steep cliffs. I descended cautiously as I had not seen anyone for a long time and I was way off the trail. If I fell and broke my leg (or worse), I might not be found for some time.

I came to the last cliff before the actual beach and saw the whale up close. Wow! It was really huge. I later found out that it was 77 feet long according to the marine mammal researchers who had measured it the day before I got there. Surprisingly, it didn't smell bad. Not sure why, but I wasn't complaining. I spent a good 15 minutes checking it out. After being awed by the whole thing, I cursed myself for not bringing a camera. Would anyone believe me at work on Monday when I told them what I'd seen?

Fortunately, I wasn't the only one curious enough to go looking for this whale. A nice couple had also hiked all this way to see it. They were kind enough to take a few pictures and email them to me the next day. Here they are:

Peter Belonjko and I stand a few fee from the whales open mouth.

So I threw down my fishin' rod and grabbed on to 'em like this, see? And then I.....

A picture of the whale's damaged tail.

Note damage to tail. Great whites snacked on the whale before it came ashore.

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A sense of perspective.

Thanks to Peter Belonjko for the pics!

Also, here's what the Oregon Department of Transportation did to one of the last whales to wash up on one of their beaches: The Exploding Whale  And yes, it really happened: Snopes

 

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