December 11, 2022
A 20-ton humpback whale was found washed ashore on a South Jersey beach Saturday morning.
Staff from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center were on location in Strathmere, Cape May County, taking measurements and preparing to perform a necropsy in attempts to determine the whale's cause of death, The Press of Atlantic City reported. The whale was dead when it came ashore.
"It was crazy," Sea Isle resident Tom D'Intino told PhillyVoice. "I've never seen anything like that."
D'Intino was surfing in Strathmere with a friend Saturday morning around dawn when he saw the large beached mammal.
"We looked down the beach and there's just this huge lump," D'Intino said. "Some guy came up and said 'There's a whale down there,' and you see this huge lump and the drift was bad so you just saw it pulling away. But we went down and checked it out and yeah, it was huge. It was definitely dead, it wasn't floundering or flopping or anything like that."
D'Intino originally saw the whale washed up around Whittier Avenue, but after he finished surfing he saw that the whale was gone. Due to strong currents, it had drifted about a mile down to a section of beach known as "Whale Beach." The beach's name is believed to stem from the number of whales that have washed ashore there over the decades.
Once the crew from the Stranding Center, located in Brigantine, completes its work on the whale, the Public Works Department plans to bury the animal on the beach. This is standard practice for large marine animals.
Township workers originally tried to drag the whale's remains out of the water and up the beach using heavy equipment. But, the mammal weighed too much, so a front end loader was used to roll the whale up the beach and beyond the tide line instead.
Humpback whales are found in every ocean across the globe. Their average size is 48 to 62.5 feet, and average weight is 40 tons. The whale in Strathmere was an estimated 30 feet long in size and weighed 20 tons.
The species' population was severely reduced before the 1985 ban on commercial whaling, but the numbers in many population groups, including off the coast of New Jersey, have since improved. They remain a protected species, with their largest threats including collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear.
It's possible that a collision with a boat may have contributed to the death of the whale found in Strathmere. Steve D'Intino, who went to check out the whale after hearing about it from his brother Tom D'Intino, noted some wounds on the whale's body.
"It looks like it was hit by a boat," Steve D'Intino said. "There were some markings that look like a propeller had cut across it ... in a couple of different spots."
Humpback whales are a favorite of whale watchers, rising nose-first out of the water and slapping their fins. In October, a father and son duo were fishing off the coast of Belmar, Monmouth County, when they saw a humpback whale leap out of the water beside their boat.