Scientists study dead blue whale near Ragged Point

Marine-mammal scientists converged Monday on the remains of a 50-foot long blue whale that had been towed to a beach south of Ragged Point, not far from where San Luis Obispo County borders on Monterey County.

The male whale, thought to be only a year old, likely had been floating in the water for from three to five days, according to Jim Oswald of The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. It was towed south from the Monterey Bay area.

The scientists were looking for evidence of disease or injury, perhaps from a ship strike, that could have killed the whale, Oswald explained.

Oswald said marine biologists working on investigation are from Marine Wildlife Institute, UC Santa Cruz, California Academy of Sciences, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and the state Department of Fish and Game, in addition to The Marine Mammal Center.

Scientists raced to finish before the arrival of the storm that moved in early this morning.

Blue whales are the largest mammals on earth, and possibly the largest animals ever on earth, according to the American Cetacean Society’s Web site, www.acsonline.org. The longest blue whale ever recorded was a 108-foot adult female caught in Antarctica.

Present population estimates are from 3,000 to 4,000 blue whales in the Northern Hemisphere.

— Kathe Tanner