DFO and ISO Scientists complete a necropsy on the dead whale. Big knives and pikes were used to cut through the blubber. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Victoria necropsy on grey whale aims to unlock secrets of its death

Large grey whale found dead off the coast of Vancouver Island April 4

WARNING: Graphic content.

A dead grey whale found floating between Sidney Island and James Island was brought ashore for a necropsy Friday in North Saanich.

The whale was found April 4, and towed to the Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOS), part of Oceans and Fisheries Canada (DFO), where scientists have conducted a necropsy to try and establish a cause of death.

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The large whale had about 10 scientists working on it, who used a collection of knives and tools, including a knife mounted on a pole, reminiscent of a pike.

As seen in the video, at one point escaping gas caused some of the insides of the whale to explode out, covering one of the workers’ arms with blood.

*Warning: This video contains graphic content and may not be suitable for all readers.

A strong fishy smell emanated from the whale.

Perhaps illustrating how dense and thick the whale’s blubber was, the pike-like tool snapped after being used for 30 minutes.

Incisions were made along the side of the whale and loud gurgling sounds lasting for approximately 20 seconds at a time were emitted by escaping gases created inside the whale due to the decomposition process.

The large incisions, each about a metre long, were cut through the whale’s thick blubber and then joined together with other cuts to form strips. These strips were then peeled away by two-person teams to reveal the whale’s internal organs.

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A moving ceremony was conducted before the necropsy by representatives of the Tseycum First Nation.

The scientists hope that as well as establishing a cause of death, the necropsy will “feed into a growing body of knowledge to assist in assessing the threats to whales from a population health perspective.”

The DFO said they were working on the necrospy with help from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, particularly Dr. Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist.

A DFO source said the most likely cause of death, at this time, is illness, natural causes or being hit by a boat, but further tests will need to be conducted for a definitive answer.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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DFO and ISO Scientists complete a necropsy on the dead whale. Escaping gas made gurgling sounds. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

DFO and ISO Scientists complete a necropsy on the dead whale on a wharf overlooking Brentford Bay. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

A broken pike, the blade snapped due to the tough blubber. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

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