Aus warship carries 2 dead whales to US naval base

The Royal Australian Navy ship, HMAS Sydney pulled into the Naval Base San Diego, with two dead whales stuck under the vessel, a media report said, adding that one of carcasses had been towed to the sea.

Video on the San Diego Web Cam Facebook page showed the Australian destroyer on May 8 making its way into San Diego Bay, 180 km south of Los Angeles, where it had been conducting joint exercises with the US Navy since early April, Xinhua news agency quoted the ABC 10 news channel as saying in its report on Wednesday.

At around 9.45 a.m. that day, as the ship was pulling into a pier at Naval Base San Diego, a sobering sight emerged, the report said, the carcasses of two fin whales became dislodged from the hull and surfaced.

One was 65 feet-long, the other was about 25 feet, the ABC 10 report said.

The endangered fin whales are the world’s second-largest whale species, only behind the blue whales.

Michael Milstein, public affairs officer for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries said, the NOAA then assisted with the carcass removal and scientists were working to determine what exactly happened.

John Calambokidis, Cascadia Research Biologist based in Washington, was quoted by the local CBS 8 as saying that this kind of incident was rare.

He suggested that the whales could be struck by the Australian warship.

“It is very unusual, and I don’t know of any other case where two whales have been struck and on the bow of a ship together like this.” Calambokidis said.

“It usually occurs when the whale is at the surface, and the ship is unaware that the whale is there and just basically runs into them and it can either be struck by the bow of the vessel or sometimes they are caught and injured by the propeller.”

Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain, told CNN that whale strikes by naval vessels were rare, saying: “Whales can hear ships from miles away and generally avoid ships using mid-frequency and high-powered low frequency sonars because it bothers their hearing”.

Only low-frequency sonar can confuse whales in shallower waters but the Australian ship is equipped with a high-frequency sonar, he added.