Blue whale first to wash up on Oregon Coast in over a century

This undated photo supplied by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, researchers harvest the carcass of a blue whale that washed up on the beach recently near Gold Beach, Ore. Authorities estimate that the 78-foot long dead blue whale weighing over 100 pounds was dead for about two weeks before it washed up onto the sandy beach. (Oregon Parks and Recreation Department via AP)

GOLD BEACH, Ore. - The 78-foot long blue whale that washed up on the Oregon Coast is the first in more than a century, researchers from the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute said.

"You can definitely smell it even from the freeway when you're coming down the 101," Dawn Vandort of Gold Beach said. "It's - indescribable."

"Driving north yesterday, you could smell it for quite a while," Phylicia Nissen of Simi Valley, Calif., said Friday. "It was not pleasant."

The whale washed up on the beach the morning of Monday, November 2.

"As we were walking toward it, we were going, 'That's one animal?' It's huge," said Diane Cavaness of Brookings.

"I've never seen a whale or anything like this," said Rylee Weidenmiller of Gold Beach

University students and other volunteers worked around the clock to remove the whale.

Bruce Mate from the OSU Marine Mammal Institute said they had several options.

This famous approach from 1970 wasn't one of them.

Mates said normal protocol now would be to bury the whale.

But not this time.

"We hope to put it on public display so that everybody can get a sense of the grandeur and size of the largest animal that ever lived on earth," Mate said.

That means first stripping away the 4-inch thick blubber and tissue and then burning it.

The skeleton will be preserved.

"Messy, smelly - but I study humpback whales, so for me it's sort of neat to see," said Logan Pallin, an OSU graduate student. "I've never seen a blue whale, so it's pretty spectacular."

It's still unclear how the whale died, but Mate said one clue is it's size: it weighed less than 100 tons, which is more typical for blue whales.

"It eats things that are no longer than 2 inches long: krill. And that's why this animal is probably on the beach because that's been in short supply last summer and again this summer," Mate said.

For now, the cause of death is uncertain.

Plans call for the skeleton to be put on display at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

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