Researchers Attempt to Sink Dead Whale, Almost Fail
How much weight do you think it would take to sink a 67-foot fin whale? Well if you don’t know,...
How much weight do you think it would take to sink a 67-foot fin whale?
Well if you don’t know, you’re not alone because a group of scientists couldn’t figure it out either.
This unusual math problem came about when the dead behemoth was towed from Point Loma to Fiesta Island (outside of San Diego) for scientific study on Nov. 23. After performing an in-the-water necropsy, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SeaWorld, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography determined that the whale had died as a result of being hit by a ship.
Left with one big dead whale, the group decided to sink the whale to create a deep water “whale fall” for study. This particular whale fall will be monitored by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California San Diego.
A whale fall is just that: when a whale falls to the bottom of the ocean after death. In shallow waters, the whale is often consumed by scavengers in a number of days. In deeper water however, this process can take decades given the lack of large scavengers. Animals observed at deep-water whale falls include bone eating worms (man, they sound like fun), lobsters, crabs, hagfish, clams and tube worms.
The whale was towed 12 miles offshore on November 25. Fourteen thousand pounds of scrap steel and chain were attached to the whale at the drop site but when the weight was released from a crane, the whale only partially sunk. Its head stayed above water, apparently because of a large buoyant mass of intestines resting in the whale’s mouth. For ten minutes the whale bobbed at the surface until a large wave pushed the mass out of the whale’s mouth. The whale then sank 800 meters at a speed of about 1 meter per second. If the team had gone with their original estimate that it would take only six thousand pounds to sink the carcass the whale would probably still be out there floating.
I’m interested in this project because I would like nothing more than to catch a large bone-eating worm. I wonder where I can get whale bait and 800 meters of fishing line though. Comment below if you have any idea!