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Dead gray whale lost at sea, for now

A 30-foot crab boat tried to tow a 40-foot whale ashore, but opposing wind and tide foiled the attempt. - Photo courtesy of Orca Network
A 30-foot crab boat tried to tow a 40-foot whale ashore, but opposing wind and tide foiled the attempt.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Orca Network

A deceased gray whale beached on Sandy Point private property near Langley at low tide Monday night, but Tuesday morning's high tide washed the whale out to sea.

The 40-foot, male whale disappeared overnight, despite a large, orange buoy attached to the carcass, said Howard Garrett, co-founder of the Greenbank-based Orca Network.

Orca Network's territory covers Island, Skagit and north Snohomish counties, and volunteers hoped to pull the adult mammal ashore for a necropsy to determine the cause of death, Susan Berta, Orca Network co-founder, said.

Initial reports of the floating carcass rolled in around 10 o'clock Sunday morning, she said, adding that the whale was first seen northwest of Camano Island.

The whale appeared to have died recently and nick marks from orca teeth are visible on the whale's skin, Berta said. The cause of death is undetermined.

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station granted base access to Orca Network volunteers so they group could tow the whale ashore, but their efforts were futile.

Between the wind and tide, a 30-foot crab boat's attempt to pull the whale ashore Monday afternoon was unsuccessful. Tidal currents transported the carcass as far south as Langley.

The whale is currently unaccounted for, and is now effectively off the Orca Network's radar, as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Gray whales visit Puget Sound each spring, dining on sand shrimp as they pause in their migration between California and Alaska. Occasionally one dies in the Sound. In the 1990s, former Congressman Jack Metcalf had one wash up on his beach near Langley, and around the same time another one washed ashore in Holmes Harbor. "Rosie" the whale, whose bones are on display at the Coupeville Wharf, washed ashore north of Lagoon Point.

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