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Dead whale that washed up on beach had been hit by ship

November 24, 2011 | 11:35 am

A fin whale that washed up on the San Diego coast died after being hit by a ship, researchers concluded after a necropsy on the 67-foot animal.

The whale is set Friday to be towed off the coast of La Jolla, weighed down with tons of steel, and sunk hundreds of feet to the ocean bottom.

The whale was discovered Saturday on the coast near Sunset Cliffs. San Diego lifeguards towed it to Fiesta Island in Mission Bay on Wednesday so that researchers from the National Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could examine the carcass.

Based on discovering several broken bones, researchers concluded the whale, estimated to weigh more than 50 tons, was hit by a ship.

The initial plan had been to take the carcass to the city landfill for disposal. But British business magnate Richard Branson, best known as founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, agreed to pay the costs of having a catamaran tow the whale to the deep ocean to be sunk, allowing scientists to observe the decomposition of the carcass.


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Photo: San Diego lifeguards attach towline to whale carcass for the six-mile journey to Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. Credit: Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune.