Story and Photos by Jane Ahrens
Thursday morning, February 20 Lisa Eiriksson was out counting seals on the north side of the island, filling in for the Fishers Island Conservancy’s naturalist Justine Kibbe. Lisa and her husband Karl approached Hungry Point from a different spot because of the muddy road conditions and as they looked down on the beach, spotted something shiny and slick. Thinking it was an overturned rowboat, they investigated further and what they discovered was a beached Beaked Whale – species Cuvier’s – fully intact, about 18’ in length. Although this species is not rare, the beaching of this whale in this area is very rare indeed.
Lisa notified the Mystic Aquarium who confirmed the identification and scheduled a visit to the island by the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue Team.
As reported in The Day, Janelle Schuh, stranding coordinator for the aquarium said, “The goal is to perform a necropsy and collect some skeletal and tissue samples and have them archived. Because the whale appears to have been dead for some time, getting an exact cause of death would be unlikely.”
Carol Giles, the science teacher at Fishers Island School, took the rare opportunity for real natural science, and every student had a chance to see the excellent specimen on Friday. As they asked questions on site, they learned more about this great sea creature and were able to identify the lateral beak, dorsal fin, blow hole and understand just how big it is.
FI School Photos
School Principal Karen Goodwin expressed, “This is an excellent and rare “in the moment” learning opportunity, and we juggled the school schedule in order to get all the students and staff there Friday morning.”
Justine, who is away this month participating in a conservationist’s course wrote, “I am so pleased and grateful for the timing of this because I had wanted to put in motion the support of our community contributing to the monitoring of the Island’s natural history. This has placed Lisa there to discover this rarely seen beaching of this species of whale, creating the bridge between local traditional knowledge and science – The Mystic Aquarium.”
More information will be forthcoming as a result of the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue Team’s research.