With their dolphin-like noses, beaked whales are among the ocean’s most mysterious whale species, and they aren’t usually found near Maine. Only four beaked whale sightings have been documented in coastal waters in the past 20 years.
But to the surprise — and alarm — of ocean biologists, two have washed up on Maine shores — one last month in York, a dead 14-foot, 2,200-pound Blainville’s beaked whale, and the other in Phippsburg, where a 1,700-pound female Sowerby’s beaked whale died after being saved from a mudflat in Atkins Bay on Saturday, the Times Record reported.
It’s troubling that no cause of death has been identified in either case, said Lynda Doughty, director of Bath-based Marine Mammals of Maine. There are 22 known species of beaked whales, but sightings are so infrequent that knowledge of them is scant, the Times Record reported.
“The fact that a beaked whale is in a coastal area is an alarm,” Doughty said. “There’s a lot unknown about their general habitat use, but they should not be in coastal waters.”
The four sightings include one whose skeletal remains are on display at the College of the Atlantic on Mount Desert Island. Another, one that washed ashore at Curtis Island in 1993, was given to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
The recent whale skeletons will be taken to the Smithsonian to help scientists better understand the rarely seen creatures, the Times Record reported.