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They always get their decomposing gray whale
Cameron Goff went above and beyond his job description Monday morning as he paddled a small dingy toward a stinking, rotting gray whale carcass. The Deception Pass Tours employee drenched himself in 50-some-odd degree Puget Sound water as he secured a rope around the whale’s tail with the help of Adam Lidral, who illuminated the pre-dawn scene with a hand-held flood light.
Almost one year after Brett Ginther and Terica Taylor towed a gray whale carcass near Camano Island to Whidbey Island’s Polnell Point — a huge effort that lasted more than nine hours and involved several failed attempts by other, smaller boats — the couple received another call from the Orca Network. Another whale was reported dead and beached on Point Yokeko.
Fidalgo Islander Josh Patterson first reported the dead marine mammal to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which in turn notified the Greenbank-based Orca Network.
Late Sunday morning Mira Lutz, a Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteer, waded into the chilly water at Yokeko Point near Deception Road and noted the whale’s markings and measurements. From her report, Lutz noted the male whale was approximately 35 feet long with a 6-foot girth. A six-foot-long cut, about one-quarter-inch to one-inch deep, appeared to have occurred within the last week and may have been caused by a motor prop, she wrote.
This was the second deceased gray whale reported last weekend, said Howard Garrett of the Orca Network. The first report arrived Saturday, April 10 for an expired gray whale near Samish Bay.
Ginther and Taylor, who own Deception Pass Tours, used their catamaran-style tour boat, The Island Whaler, to tow the 30,000-pound whale from Yokeko Point to a beach near Polnell Point for a necropsy. The couple enlisted Goff and Lidral to aid in the odorous ordeal. Their daughter Brooklyn also came along for the ride.
The details of the postmortem exam are still being settled, Garrett said Monday afternoon. Jessie Huggins of the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Matt Klope of the Stranding Network, and other volunteers will likely perform the necropsy on Tuesday, he said.
Goff applied his experience in towing the first whale, in April of last year, to Monday morning’s tow. The crew left Cornet Bay shortly before 4:30 a.m. to take advantage of the high tide. Goff lassoed the whale’s tail with a rope and attached two red buoys by 5:30 a.m., before the boat took off for Polnell Point at a steady clip of about 5 knots. Four and a half hours later the crew met Klope and several other volunteers at the drop point.
It’s been a busy week for the Orca Network, Garrett said, as he searched through a pile of notes on recent whale sightings. In addition to the two gray whale death reports, several witnesses reported orcas attacking a gray whale near Whidbey Island this weekend. The gray whale apparently survived the ordeal.