Lost baby whale dies in Brooklyn bay

CORRECTION Brooklyn Whale
The body of a baby minke whale, weighing around 3,500 to 5,000 pounds, is pulled out of a Brooklyn bay on Thursday by a crane from the ship behind it.Dima Gavrysh / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A crane on Thursday lifted a dead baby minke whale out of a small Brooklyn bay where it had been swimming aimlessly for two days.

The Army Corps of Engineers sent in a work boat with a 20-ton capacity crane to retrieve the carcass of the baby whale, which had been left overnight tied to a pier at Gowanus Pier.

Kim Durham, a rescue specialist at the Long Island-based Riverhead Foundation for Research and Preservation, said the whale would be taken to a submersible dock in New Jersey for a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

'Confused and disoriented'
Animal activists said the minke whale, about a year old, had been too young to survive on its own.

"It's very sad," Durham said Wednesday. "It was a very young whale that became confused and disoriented." Durham had monitored the troubled animal's activities around the clock.

Earlier, experts had reported seeing nothing to indicate the mammal was sick, such as swimming erratically or in tight circles. With only the whale's dorsal fin visible at times, observers could only guess whether it might have been injured.

Durham had expressed hope earlier that the whale would find its way back into open water in New York harbor. But she said the situation took a bad turn early Wednesday afternoon, when the whale's swimming patterns changed.

Durham said a colleague, marine biologist Robert DiGiovanni, was observing the animal when "it suddenly began heavy splashing, hit the dock and then just went quiet."

The whale died about 5 p.m. Wednesday. The end was witnessed by spectators who had been drawn to the dock area in Gowanus Bay by news accounts.

First seen Tuesday
The whale was first spotted on Tuesday in Gowanus Bay, a small estuary off industrial south Brooklyn that is the outlet from the Gowanus canal, a narrow 1.2-mile waterway once lined with pollution-generating coal yards, scrap yards and small industries.

In this photo released by the United States Coast Guard, a minke whale swims in New York City's Gowanus canal, Tuesday, April 17, 2007. Marine biologists were dispatched to investigate the whale that found its way into the narrow Brooklyn waterway best known for industrial pollution. It was not known whether the animal was in distress. (AP Photo/United States Coast Guard, Thomas D'Amore) Thomas D'amore / UNITED STATES COAST GUARD

The canal has improved in recent years due to environmental cleanup efforts. After a huge underwater fan, designed to keep the water flowing, was reactivated, crabs and other marine creatures began turning up.

The estuary is lined with docks, storage warehouses and a large fuel oil depot.

Minke whales are a subspecies of baleen whales, common in northern Atlantic waters, and feed on plankton and krill. They are not known for singing like their cousins the humpback whales. Underwater listening devices picked up only a few "grunts" in the Gowanus waters, Durham said.