TORII STATION, Okinawa — A dead humpback whale that washed ashore at Torii Station on Okinawa was dissected on the beach Friday by a team of Japanese researchers.
The 33-foot-long female was already dead when it was first spotted at sea Wednesday. By the next day, it had beached along an Army recreational area used for swimming and barbecuing.
The dead whale caused the Army to close the beach for the day while it was being removed.
About 1,000 humpback whales migrate to waters near Okinawa for breeding each year between January and March, but it is extremely rare for carcasses to wash up. Isao Kawazu, a researcher at Okinawa’s Churaumi Aquarium, said he has never seen a dead humpback on a local beach in the 10 years he has worked on the island.
Kawazu said it is unclear how the whale died. It appeared to be a younger female that might not have been fully grown. The endangered mammals can grow up to 60 feet in length and live about 50 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The aquarium workers cleaned away all flesh, blubber and organs and set aside the whale’s massive bones, which will be buried in the ground for one year before being excavated and used for research specimens, he said.