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Old 09-24-2007, 11:07 PM   #1
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Whale death attributed to ship strike

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The third such creature to be found dead off the Southland coast in two weeks had broken bones and a smashed skull, autopsy shows.

The blue whale found dead last week in the Santa Barbara Channel was probably the third victim of a ship collision in two weeks, scientists said Saturday as they conducted a post-mortem on the 60-ton creature.

As surf roiled around the massive carcass on a beach at Point Mugu, biologists cut doorway-size openings in its belly and probed its organs for tissue specimens. About an hour after they had peeled back 4-inch-thick sheets of snowy blubber, they started removing foot-long bone fragments that had chipped away from the animal's 9-foot ribs. Later, they found other fractured bones, including a smashed cranium.

"It's definitely a ship strike," said Easter Moorman, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, which was directing the necropsy of the not-quite fully grown male. "The animal died instantly."

Three blue whales -- members of the largest species on Earth -- have been discovered dead off Southern California in the last two weeks, the most recent on Wednesday. Two found in the Santa Barbara Channel were thoroughly examined by scientists, who concluded that they were hit by ships. One found in Long Beach Harbor was towed out to sea, but a biologist who viewed it said it probably had been hauled into port on a ship's bow.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/c...s-pe-california
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Old 09-25-2007, 01:14 AM   #2
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Whale death attributed to ship strike
"Was the whale showing the correct navigation lights", I ask myself?

Seriously though, this is a problem for mariners. Whales, lying still and asleep on the surface are virtualy impossible to see. No radar echo, a colour, to a large extent, which mathches that of the sea and no "bow wave" or flicking with the tail to indicate their pressance.

In the early 70:s a British heavy lift ship, the Benarty, struch a whale in mid Indian Ocean. The whale was well and truly impaled upon the bow and no maneover made by the ship was able to disslodge it. In the end they had to proceed at much reduced speed to Durban where whalers who were working at the old whaling station on the Bluff came down and cut the animal off the ship.

My bet is that we will see more of these incidents in the future as whaling has almost completely stopped and these creatures increase in numbers. A large ship, like the Benarty, may suffer nothing worse than a serious delay but what happens when a yacht strikes such an animal? If the yacht survives the initial collission, maybe the whale will react in anger and sink the vessel anyway? This is cause for concern.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 09-25-2007, 01:54 AM   #3
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It is very sad to see these creatures being killed in this way and more research needs to be done to find a way of avoiding whales. As far as yachts colliding with them I think this is a risk that we all have to accept and I for one would not give up cruising out of fear. The whales were there long before us and deserve our respect. Also just my own opinion there should be a total ban on the killing of whales whether it be for so called research or food.

Keep sailing and have a great day.

George
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Old 09-25-2007, 02:21 AM   #4
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These type of whales do not have the echo location systems like toothed whales. Many times they just don't know the ship or yacht is there. Plus with ships traveling at 20+ knots doesn't help them either.

Such a shame.

Chuck
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Old 09-25-2007, 02:56 AM   #5
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Also just my own opinion there should be a total ban on the killing of whales whether it be for so called research or food.
I don't know if you noticed but Iceland declared a week or so ago the the country would no longer be involved in whaling. I believe, that only Japan and Norway can still be called whaling nations. Maybe there is some artisanal whaling still done in the Azores? Anyone able to provide an up-date on that?

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Plus with ships traveling at 20+ knots doesn't help them either.
If I remember correctly, the Benarty made 17 knots but what's the difference to a whale when confronted with a 12,000 ton ship.aye // Stephen
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Old 09-25-2007, 06:24 AM   #6
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It makes a good case for forward looking sonar. Hardly a year goes past when at least one competing yacht doesn't strike a whale or sunfish when racing south in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

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Old 09-25-2007, 01:17 PM   #7
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Whales and sailboats. Some stories.

About 20 years ago, one of the HAM net moderators in the Caribbean, who lived in Venezuela, recounted his experience with Killer Whales. He was motoring along the VZ coast to Trinidad (due East against a strong current, one motored very close to shore to avoid the worst of the current and often find a counter-current). The ocean along the Paria Peninsula is deep right up to the cliffs, so when there's wind you usually short tack up the coast, running almost into the rocks before tacking back out.

He said that early in the morning as he was motoring, two killer whales appeared on his bow, rushing the boat and diving under it, back and forth, with no stop. It was such unusual behavior that he looked very closely, and saw, not too far forward, a very large pod of sleeping killer whales. Apparently the two making such a fuss over his boat were the lookouts for the pod.

It was only a few years later that a couple sailing in the Pacific (leaving southern California or Mexico[?]) were attacked by a pod of Killer Whales and their boat was sunk. An unanswered question of mine is whether they had unknowingly crashed through a sleeping pod of whales and were attacked for that reason.

Kiwi friends told us about friends of theirs whose boat sank in the S. Pacific - they apparently hit a sleeping whale that damaged their boat so badly that it sank quickly. They said that they stepped up into the life raft in a sea of blood.

It's a worry, though not so much that I'd not cross oceans in a sailboat.

I don't know anything about forward-looking sonar. Would it "see" a whale on the surface?
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Old 09-25-2007, 04:03 PM   #8
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About two years ago we came across a sleeping blue whale near Catalina. At first we thought it was sick, but later realized it was trying to soak-up some sun. We wera able to pull right along side of it close enough to step off the boat and onto it's back! My boat is 50 feet long, and this whale was at least 75 feet long. It was so light blue, that we thought we had found Moby Dick.

In hindsight, I now realize that was a foolish thing to do. We did however think it was sick.
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