A blue whale, world's largest animal, that had washed ashore at the Revdanda beach, south of Alibaug, died after 18 hours despite efforts to push it back in the ocean failed.
The 42-feet female, eight feet longer than a BEST bus-was spotted in shallow waters around 10 am on Wednesday, following which local residents informed the authorities.
However, officials were no less confused by the giant mammal’s sudden appearance, and while they eventually identified it, many admitted they were illequipped to handle such a situation.
KP Singh, chief conservator with the forest department, Thane, said, “After inspection by various authorities, the creature was identified as a blue whale. Officials from the district administration, coast guard and wildlife department reached the spot around 2pm on Wednesday. They tried repeatedly to push it back into the sea but failed as the mammal was extremely heavy and appeared exhausted.”
Singh added that the whale died at around 4 am on Thursday. “As it had been beached for close to 20 hours, its blow hole may have become clogged, preventing it from breathing,” he said.
N Vasudevan, chief conservator, state mangrove cell, inspected the carcass on Thursday. He said the whale may have strayed too close to the coast because of a pre-existing injury or disease, which could have affected its navigational sense.
“We have taken tissue samples from the carcass to identify the sub-species of the blue whale. It might help us understand why it came so close to the shore,” he said. Admitting that officials across departments were ill-equipped to handle such a situation, he said, “A post-mortem could not be conducted on the mammal as we lack the expertise for it.”
“The whale was either not fully grown or a member of the pygmy sub-species of blue whales. We are not fully equipped to handle such a situation; a lot of research needs to be done,” he said.
Other experts said strong currents could have dragged the whale close to the shore, and that the shallow waters off Revdanda beach could have caused it to get stuck. “Strong currents and intense waves could be the main reason it ended up on the beach,” said Dr Deepak Apte, chief operating officer, BNHS.
After the animal died, two excavators had to be called in to dig a hole large enough to bury it, an official said.