Friday, April 20, 2007

What Killed Sludgie? Body Recovered for Examination

Sludgie, the Gowanus whale that delighted us all and broke our hearts with his/her death on Wednesday, was recovered from the waters of Gowanus Bay yesterday. The whale had been tied to a dock overnight, but slipped from a knot on a first attempt to life the body from the water. Divers were called in to recover him/her. Richard Pyle from the Associated Press picks up the narrative:
A day after it died while splashing around in a remote backwater of New York Harbor, the body of a baby whale was retrieved by police divers on Thursday and taken to an Army Corps of Engineers dock in New Jersey for a necropsy to possibly determine what caused its demise.

The 12-foot carcass was lifted by a crane onto the deck of the Hayward, a Corps workboat, after two NYPD Scuba Team divers attached ropes to its tail in Gowanus Bay, in an industrial section of Brooklyn. The dead whale had been tied to a pier at a Hess Oil Co. facility overnight, but slipped its rope on the first attempted lift, prompting the Corps to call in the divers.

"It was a 'might knot' _ it might hold and it might not," said the Hayward's captain, Brian Aballo.

Detective Sgt. Paul Reynolds, 40, and Detective Mike Cocchi, 39, descended into what they called "zero vis" in the murky outlet from Brooklyn's notoriously polluted Gowanus canal. Using a "pattern search" method, Reynolds said he "bumped into the whale's tail on the first pass," 30 feet down.

"This was my first whale," said Reynolds, whose job is usually searching for human bodies or other submerged evidence.

Once out of the water, the whale's belly revealed a number of bloody scratches as if it had scraped itself on the bottom or underwater obstacles.

At the Corps of Engineers Caven Point facility in Jersey City, N.J., the carcass was to be placed on a dock for the necropsy by experts from the Long Island-based Riverhead Foundation for Research and Preservation.
Experts say the whale was about a year old and was probably too young to have survived on its own. If that is the case or if Sludgie was sick, it's sad, but it's somehow a little comforting to know that the water coming out of the Gowanus itself didn't kill him/her. We await news on the cause of Sludgie's demise.

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