School to study skeleton of washed-up whale
THE skeleton of a young humpback whale that washed up at South Ballina will be used to teach marine science students at Ballina High School, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has said.
A spokesman for the service said the juvenile humpback, measuring about 6.5 metres long, was found by Parks and Wildlife contractor Bob Moffatt on an isolated stretch about 3.3km north of the Patchs Beach entrance on Monday.
It was believed to have washed up on the morning tide and had no obvious injuries, leaving its cause of death a mystery.
The spokesman said the whale was believed to have been about 18 months old and it had likely been on its first full migration between Antarctica and Hervey Bay in Queensland.
The spokesman said Ballina High was keen to get hold of the whale's skeleton for use in teaching its marine science students.
However, the school would face a fairly long wait for the remains.
The process for reducing a whale's body to a skeleton essentially involves burying the carcase on the beach, marking the burial site with GPS readings and then waiting six to 12 months while organisms in the sand, such as ghost crabs, eat their way through the body.
After about a year the site could be dug up and a 'nice, clean skeleton' retrieved.
In this case, burial of the whale was likely to prove a challenge, because its isolated location meant the heavy machinery needed to dig the grave and move the body would have to be driven more than three kilometres up the beach.
The spokesman said the logistics of who would bury the whale and how were still being sorted out.