No one was there to see the 40-foot gray whale carcass wash up on the beach near Tillamook on Saturday, April 18. The Sand Lake Recreation Area had already been closed to the public to reduce the spread of coronavirus, and by the time the carcass was found, it was already rotted, indicating that it had been dead for some time before reaching the shore.
Samples were taken for study by NOAA’s West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, while beach rangers and a local contractor had the unpleasant job of digging a trench in the sand to bury the whale.
Burying the whale in a shallow grave on the beach was a less than ideal solution, but far better than measures taken in the past, especially in the state of Oregon. In 1970, a “controlled explosion” used dynamite to blow up a beached sperm whale in Florence, Ore., sending chunks of carcass 800 feet into the air, before raining down on onlookers and vehicles.
By John M. Burt