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Apr 6, 2010 6:39 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Beached humpback whale draws a crowd in East Hampton

Apr 6, 2010 6:39 PM

A beached humpback whale caused a commotion at Main Beach in East Hampton on Tuesday morning, as East Hampton Village Police officers and representatives of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation tried to figure how they could get the 25-foot-long creature safely back to open water. But by mid-afternoon, it was clear the adolescent whale was not going to make it, said Chuck Bowman, president of the Riverhead Foundation.

He said that humpback whales travel in pods and that this whale was most likely sickly from being separated from its mother.

“He was probably nursing,” he said. “They learn to survive from their families and we can’t teach them that. So if we were to get it back in the water, it would probably still die and wash back up on shore.”

Mr. Bowman said humpback whales are common in the area but if they come up on shore they are usually already dead.

Village Police Officer Chris Jack said he had just begun his morning beach patrol at around 7 a.m. when he saw the whale swimming a few hundred yards beyond the surf. “I just thought it was going to be a great day,” he said. “How often do you see whales around here?”

He said he spent a few minutes watching the whale and then moved along down the beach, but in the 15 minutes it took him to circle back, the whale had already moved inward and beached itself.

Village Police Captain Mike Tracey said police sent a picture message by cell phone to the Riverhead Foundation, and members of the foundation arrived around 10 a.m., observing the whale and assessing its condition. They were also handing out flyers and information on the foundation’s services to a crowd that had started to form, including daily walkers who were interrupted by the event and Village Deputy Mayor Barbara Borsack, who heard about the whale and showed up to see it.

As bystanders looked on, the whale moaned as it rolled in the tide, occasionally flipping its tail and revealing a bright white underbelly.

“It’s really a magnificent sight,” said Ellen Goldberg, who stopped on her morning walk. Ms. Goldberg said she had never seen a whale up close before, and last week she saw a seal on Main Beach. “It’s a sad sight, but it really is beautiful.”

As word spread throughout the day the crowd at the beach continued to grow. Officer Jack said that around noon the rock groin that cuts across the beach was full of spectators, though police had roped off the area surrounding the whale. Officer Jack said it seemed like there were a lot of high school students earlier but by 3 p.m. the Main 
Beach parking lot was full, there 
were at least 50 people of all ages sitting and standing on the rocks and 
more were coming and going constantly.

The area surrounding the whale was scattered with representatives from the Riverhead Foundation, the East Hampton Village Police, and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Mr. Bowman said they would have to wait for the whale to die and then they would perform a necropsy and bury it on the beach.

“There’s not much we can do at this point,” he said. “We’ll just wait here for as long as it takes. It could be hours.”

He said the size of the whale made it difficult to do much more than wait since it would be dangerous for even trained professionals to get too close to it.

“That’s why we really need the police force here,” he said. “People want to just come over and push it back in, but it would die anyway.”

Captain Tracey said the last time there was a beached whale in East Hampton was two years ago, when a smaller white-colored whale washed up on shore, and local lifeguard and rescue workers were able to get it into a pickup truck themselves and take it away.

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It's a Minke Whale - not a Humpback.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Apr 6, 10 2:26 PM
The folks from the Riverhead Foundation at the scene say it's a humpback...we'll see if the identification changes at some point.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Apr 6, 10 3:10 PM
Ever heard of "spell check"?
By cush870 (31), Westhampton Beach on Apr 6, 10 2:50 PM
Oops. Gonna fix that. Thanks.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Apr 6, 10 3:11 PM
Sorry Nature...The tail , pectoral and dorsal fins all point to it being a Humpback
By Split Rock (68), Sag Harbor on Apr 6, 10 2:59 PM
how is spelldt checkt gonna help the minke (not a humpback) whale?
By uncleronk (136), southold on Apr 6, 10 2:59 PM
Uncleronk: Cush was referring to the 2nd word in the article "beachedt"

Split Rock: I was simply making a point of what happens when you hear something from 1 "reliable" source about the species. You (and the Press and Newsday etc. etc.) are correct.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Apr 6, 10 3:05 PM
is it still there? I'd like to drive out. to see it
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Apr 6, 10 3:50 PM
It is. Video coming soon.
By BOReilly (135), 27east Web Editor on Apr 6, 10 4:49 PM
A very sickening sight. With all the fleets of boats out here the fact that no one is trying to get this whale back out into open water is pathetic. Nor would Mr Bowman allow it. AND no one bothered to call the Coast Guard! It was news to them when I called to alert them at 330 p.m.
Mr. Bowman is right, people just want to help push it back into the water because it's the right thing to try to do - not just stand around "for hours" waiting for it to die. If they aren't going to try to help ...more
By localwater (35), east hampton on Apr 6, 10 5:19 PM
what in the hell are you talking about?
By tm (174), mtk on Apr 6, 10 5:37 PM
I agree...let it pass away with it's mother beside it. She is probably crazed being unable to nurture in it's last hours. But the humans are control freaks, so.....just let it sit there and moan while we all watch, and the mom pathetically paces. Some humans have no regard for mothers and their offspring....Mr. Bowman is a perfect example.
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Apr 6, 10 6:30 PM
I am glad you agree. The fact that no one is acknowledging that there is an adult whale swimming within the same range for the hour (again, I spotted it 5 times) is negligent when it comes to these "experts" the welfare of this creature. Not only that, in another news12 article, these same "experts" were having trouble deciphering the species of this whale. Humpback or Minke.
By localwater (35), east hampton on Apr 6, 10 6:40 PM
It is normal to want to push it back out, in this case the stranding was witnessed by a Police patrol, and several times today at high tide, the whale floated - but made no attempt to move away from the beach. The Biologist (one of two) at the beach, was asked about this, and told the onlookers that the whale will drown in a weakedned condition, and that whales will on occasion beach themselves to avoid drowning.
By johnnytax (29), new york on Apr 6, 10 9:48 PM
I am so with you on this. I'm sitting here down in TX wondering WTF! I wish I could jump on the next flight up and get a group of us together and do whatever we can to help this young one. I was actually telling my son that it's mom is probably out swimming nearby waiting for him and I see you wrote that there is indeed another whale out in the ocean swimming back and forth along the shore? Whoa! Don't the folks from the "foundation" see what's happening? I also agree with you that if they ...more
By jmguad62 (1), Flower Mound on Apr 7, 10 9:58 PM
You don't understand what I said? My comment doesn't need explaining.
It isn't neuroscience. Common sense.
By localwater (35), east hampton on Apr 6, 10 5:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree it is sad but the only thing that makes sense in this situation is euthanizing it
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Apr 7, 10 10:00 AM
A 25 foot whale can do a lot of damage to anyone who tries to help it. Also, most of the time a calf finds itself beached because it's either sick or injured, and rehabilitation of a humpback is pretty much impossible. It is really sad, and if there were a way to euthanize it I'm sure they would of gone that route.
When I was there I scanned the horizon for the cow but didn't spot her, the people who were there since the calf was found didn't see her either when I asked. Depressing, but Nature ...more
By RubyBaby (28), East Hampton on Apr 6, 10 6:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ruby sums it up
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Apr 7, 10 10:04 AM
I was there for one hour and spotted the cow 5 times directly offshore from Wyborg's Beach to just before the jetty.
I realize all of what you say is true, but considering the tides today, the fact that there are so many tide pools and sandbars today, it could be very likely the whale got too close to shore and became trapped. A perfect day for a boat to come in and try, at least TRY to haul it back out. If it beached itself again, then so be it. But to sit and wait "for hours" according to ...more
By localwater (35), east hampton on Apr 6, 10 6:20 PM
I'm certainly no expert, but the poor thing was moaning and obviously panicky without MOM....MOM'S RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Apr 6, 10 6:33 PM
That is true as well, but even if the calf is sick or injured the cow will stay a distance away to grieve. Calves are known to stay very close to their mother, so something had to of been wrong for it to be willing to venture so far from her to begin with. And between the tide and the sandbars after the last storm, it actually makes a possible rescue even harder. Any boat that tries to go near the animal will have a very high risk of ending up in a pitch pole, since the land under the surf has ...more
By RubyBaby (28), East Hampton on Apr 6, 10 6:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
wow Kyril. AMAZING photographs!!!!!!!!!
By MaryB (19), East Hampton on Apr 6, 10 8:29 PM
unfortunately this seems to actions that mr bowman seems to take. remember a couple of years back when the pod of dolphins trapped themselves in northwest harbor in east hampton. in the beginning he denied the help of many spectators/locals to herd the dolphins out of the narrow harbor. and as we all watched, the majority of them all died because mr bowman did not take immediate actions to remove the dolphins from the clogged harbor. i do not know for sure if there was an adult whale in the ...more
By tito (56), e hampton on Apr 6, 10 9:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where's George the Marine Biologist when you need him? and by the way... is that a Titleist?
By Uniblab (24), Water Mill on Apr 6, 10 10:51 PM
The Okeanos Foundation was started by Sam Sadove 1n 1977 purposely to rescue stranded aquatic mammals. He was canned in '96 by the MBAs of the Riverhead Aquarium. You can't make money rescuing stranded pinnipeds and cetaceans if you can't charge an entry fee. So the MBAs decided that it was best to let the whale (and any other stranded animal that would tax their budget) die. This is cold-blooded, bottom line policy, now and forever.

Heartless jerks!

If Sam were still in charge ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Apr 7, 10 1:19 AM
2 members liked this comment
They have pulled ADULT humpbacks off the beach. Humpherey the Humpback was rescued twice in 1989 and again I think it was 1991, in San Fran. is one example. They can do it. it could be weak because it is fighting to survive on a beach. why don't you guys try to push him back to water he can swim back out to be with is mother who has been seen not far away
By Nikkip (2), CT on Apr 7, 10 7:22 AM
I agree! This is 2010 and we are watching a humpback whale die on the beach? This is so sad and ridiculous. There are plenty of resources to help this animal!
By cmojo71 (6), East Hampton on Apr 7, 10 9:33 AM
2 members liked this comment
I was sent to this site by mutual friends. I appreciate the supportive views expressed here as to what I would do or would have done. I have avoided answering press requests for comment out of respect for the scientific staff at Riverhead that once worked for me and I trained. However, many of you are sadly correct. Mr Bowman is not a scientist and many times in the past his obvious lack of knowledge only does the public, the environment and wildlife a dis-service. Baleen whales (which this is, ...more
By ssadove (14), East Quogue on Apr 7, 10 1:11 PM
New article see link above.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 7, 10 7:21 PM
How sad all this misinformation from Mr. Bowman, head of an Institution that has as priority to save marine life. Many years ago I had a chance to volunteer at Okeanos under Sam Sadove directorship . When he left the Riverhead Foundation in the early years I felt sorry for the biologists that had worked with him, they had lost a mentor. Unfortunately nowadays the politics and the $$$ are more important for the Foundation than the scientific knowledge . SHAME for us and for the future generation, ...more
By Stevens (9), Sagaponack on Apr 9, 10 12:03 AM
Humpback whale (like all baleen whales) are seasonal feeders and carnivores that filter feed tiny crustaceans, plankton, and small fish from the water.
By Parag (1), mumbai on May 7, 10 8:07 AM