Return to Strawberry Point and Our Gray Whale

Where does a dead whale go? After death, if the carcass ends up on a beach, it plays an important role in its surrounding terrestrial ecosystem.

Strawberry Point

For those of you who may have missed my previous article, A Sad Gray Whale of A Tale, last June while conducting our survey for the COASST program we came upon the carcass of a decomposing Gray Whale just south of our survey beach near Strawberry Point.

For our July survey, we were anxious to go back and check on the state of the carcass. Surprisingly, or at least to me, almost all of the soft tissue was gone. The remaining bones were scattered over a wide area as well. I’m assuming that was due to scavenging.

From everything I’ve read, it seems awfully accelerated. Does anyone have any experience with this? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Decomposition

Where does a dead whale go? A dead cetacean may end up on a shoreline or beach or may float in the ocean for a period of time before sinking to the seafloor. After death, if the carcass ends up on a beach, it plays an important role in its surrounding terrestrial ecosystem, often immediately becoming prey to a number of scavengers and omnivorous species, including seabirds, wolves and bears.

Decomposition begins almost immediately after death and there are several processes that begin to break down various parts of a cetacean’s body. Autolysis (the process in which cells or tissues are broken down by naturally occurring enzymes), bacterial decomposition, putrification (the process of breaking down proteins and is responsible for organ liquefaction), and fermentation all occur and all produce noxious gases such as CO2, methane, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia.

I have to admit that given all of this information I still am surprised at how quickly our Strawberry Point Gray Whale decomposed.  

Where does a dead whale go? After death, if the carcass ends up on a beach, it plays an important role in its surrounding terrestrial ecosystem.

Where does a dead whale go? After death, if the carcass ends up on a beach, it plays an important role in its surrounding terrestrial ecosystem.

Member of the following

We are the learned society for geography and geographers.
as-seal-gr
Working to provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to make a difference as they play in the outdoors.
coasst-logo
Working to translate long-term monitoring into effective marine conservation solutions.
Sea Grant Washington
Provide integrated research, communication, and education to coastal communities that lead to the responsible use of the nation’s oceans.

Latest Instagram

Here's another shot of Skate Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The creek was running high between the spring melt and thunderstorms. ...

An enchanted creek bed along NF-52. This stretch of road bisects the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Skate Creek runs alongside much of it.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #cascadiaexplored #oregonexplored #theoutbound #pnwexplored #getoutside #naturelovers #follow4followback #pnwlife #pacificnorthwest #likeforlikes #photographylife #washingtonstate #pnw #like4likes #followforfollowback #photooftheday #follow #pnwcollective #picsart #naturephotography #thatpnwlife #roamtheplanet #photography #nature #picsarttutorial #upperleftusa #optoutside #pnwadventures #pnwwonderland #liked ...

Goat Creek runs beside our campsite located just outside Mt. Rainier National Park. Feels good to be outdoors again.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #cascadiaexplored #oregonexplored #theoutbound #pnwexplored #getoutside #naturelovers #follow4followback #pnwlife #pacificnorthwest #likeforlikes #photographylife #washingtonstate #pnw #like4likes #followforfollowback #photooftheday #follow #pnwcollective #picsart #naturephotography #thatpnwlife #roamtheplanet #photography #nature #picsarttutorial #upperleftusa #optoutside #pnwadventures #pnwwonderland #liked ...

Looking out at Mt. Rainier from the trail leading to the High Tower Lookout. Hoping to get back out there this weekend if all goes well. Be safe everyone.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #cascadiaexplored #oregonexplored #theoutbound #pnwexplored #getoutside #naturelovers #follow4followback #pnwlife #pacificnorthwest #likeforlikes #photographylife #washingtonstate #pnw #like4likes #followforfollowback #photooftheday #follow #pnwcollective #picsart #naturephotography #thatpnwlife #roamtheplanet #photography #nature #picsarttutorial #upperleftusa #optoutside #pnwadventures #pnwwonderland #liked ...

Had to go to the photo abutment for this one but it’s a sunset after a storm on the Washington coast featuring the North Head Lighthouse. .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #seascape_lovers #pnwlife #ig_worldbeaches #sunset_greatshots #lighthouses_around_the_world #pnwcollective #ig #lighthouses #unlimitedsunset #pnwwonderland #sky_brillance #lighthouse #lighthouse_world #pnw #sealandscape #raw #pnwonderland #pnwlove #thatoregonlife #pacificnorthwest #oregonlife #explore #oregonisbeautiful #oregonexplored #pocket_beaches #lighthousesofinstagram #nautical_images #seascapephotography #pnwisbest #wastateparks ...

Cattails at Frenchmen’s Cove on Hood Canal with the Olympic Mountain Range in the background.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #cascadiaexplored #oregonexplored #theoutbound #pnwexplored #getoutside #naturelovers #follow4followback #pnwlife #pacificnorthwest #likeforlikes #photographylife #washingtonstate #pnw #like4likes #followforfollowback #photooftheday #follow #pnwcollective #picsart #naturephotography #thatpnwlife #roamtheplanet #photography #nature #picsarttutorial #upperleftusa #optoutside #pnwadventures #pnwwonderland #liked ...

Decided to test the new Mavic Air 2 from my backyard; still waiting for campsites to open here in the Pacific Northwest. Rather pleased with the quality of the new sensor. #dji #mavicair2 ...

It was 40 years ago today that Mt. St. Helens erupted. But life is rebounding to the volcano and she's rebuilding herself.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #herpnwlife #pacificnw #pnwlife #anniversary #40yearsago #cascadiaexplored #40thanniversary #pnw #landscape #washingtonexplored #volcano #mountrainier #volcanoeruption #mountsthelens #optoutside #upperleftcoast #history #pnwhiking #sky #upperleftusa #columbiarivergorge #mthood #oregonisbeautiful #pnwadventures #pnwonderland #washington #washingtonstate #eruption #nature #pdx ...

Looking forward to getting back into the Olympics soon. Hopefully, we can do so responsibly in the very near future.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #landscape #oregonisbeautiful #pnwlife #naturalwonder #landscapephotography #explorewashington #pacificnw #waterfallsfordays #mountains #naturalwonders #rockformation #pnwparadise #waterfalls #scenicview #waterfall #pnwwonderland #cascadiaexplored #waterfallhike #nature #pnwroamers #naturephotography #wanderlust #rockformations #pacificnorthwest #waterfallphotography #waterfallchasing #photography #water #oregonlife #pnwcollective ...

One of last winters sunsets just after a storm swept the beach. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #naturephotography #pnwadventures #ig_stormclouds #columbiariver #photography #oregonexplored #love #severeweather #sunset #pnwwonderland #stormphotography #blackclouds #clouds #pnwcollective #thunderstorm #spokane #sky #thunder #upperleftusa #stormchasers #cloudy #pnwlife #photooftheday #rain #bnw #stormchaser #nature #stormclouds #oregoncoast #oregonlife ...

With the relaxing of our 'Stay-at-home' order, we were able to get out and enjoy a bit of the outdoors. Didn't mind the rain one bit. Here's the Nisqually River near the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #landscape #oregonisbeautiful #pnwlife #naturalwonder #landscapephotography #explorewashington #pacificnw #waterfallsfordays #mountains #naturalwonders #rockformation #pnwparadise #waterfalls #scenicview #waterfall #pnwwonderland #cascadiaexplored #waterfallhike #nature #pnwroamers #naturephotography #wanderlust #rockformations #pacificnorthwest #waterfallphotography #waterfallchasing #photography #water #oregonlife #pnwcollective ...

We found a way to safely camp this weekend without violating our stay at home order or endangering anyone else. Nice to have breakfast outdoors again.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #loveyourself #positivity #quotes #inspiration #positiveenergy #photooftheday #positivequotes #love #happy #happiness #motivation #fitness #postivity #positivethoughts #positive #success #positiveaffirmations #positivevibesonly #quoteoftheday #positivevibes #inspirationalquotes #positvity #mindset #positiveoutlook #life #selfcare #lifequotes #positiveaffirmation #positivequote #selflove ...

Sunrise over Port Angeles. I have to keep reminding myself that this crisis will pass. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #sunriseporn #clouds #sky #upperleftusa #oregoncoast #pacificnorthwest #pnwlife #photooftheday #sunset #skyscape #beautiful #love #sunup #sunrise #pnwadventures #instasunrise #pnw #nature #photography #cloudporn #sunsetlover #pnwisbest #oregonexplored #skylovers #orangesky #oregonlife #spokanedoesntsuck #centraloregon #sunrise_and_sunsets #travel ...

We were so lucky to have the La Fortuna waterfall to ourselves for close to an hour this morning. It really doesn't get better than this.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #españa #travel #quedateencasa #costarica🇨🇷 #alajuela #ecuador #argentina #costaricacool #guanacaste #colombia #uruguay #mexico #panama #peru #chile #costaricatravel #heredia #cuarentena #costarica #bolivia🇧🇴 #puravida #paraguay #visitcostarica #bolivia #literatura #nature #venezuela #historias #italia #puertorico ...

Early morning clouds drifting up the flanks of Arenal Volcano; almost seemed alive.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #exploresouthamerica #manuelantonio #costaricacool #volcan #arenal #tortuguero #nature #lafortuna #photography #traveling #costarica🇨🇷 #wanderlust #costaricatraveler #rarotonga #volcano #arenalvolcano #travelphotography #cahuita #visitcostarica #costarica #colcacanyon #travelgram #mochilerosinguia #centralamerica #puravida #thisiscostarica #costaricapuravida #landscape #mochilera #travel ...

Just published our latest adventure, or maybe misadventure. You can find the link in my bio up top. - Costa Rica: Surviving a Cattle Stampede in La Fortuna ...

Gases accumulate in the body cavity of a deceased cetacean causing, in some cases, extreme bloating. An estimated 3-5 atmospheres of pressure can build inside the whale, equivalent to the pressure experienced diving 40 meters underwater. Eventually, these gases find a means of escaping the body through weak points in the connective tissue, skin, and blubber.

This process can occur rapidly, resulting in an explosive event, where gases and organs may be propelled several meters from a whale upon release, or slowly if several points of escape are present. Once the bloating has ceased, decomposition will continue to occur until all tissue has been broken down and only the skeleton remains.

Please share this:

More to explore

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.