Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Gowanus Whale Tale Continues


We never thought we'd type words like "Gowanus Whale Tale," but there we go. Yesterday was that kind of day. A young whale wandered near the beginning of the Gowanus Canal, off 21st Street on the Sunset Park side of Gowanus Bay near a ship that has been docked there forever. We saw a boat that had been out on the water near the whale from the Smith-9th Street station yesterday evening. In reality, the whale was near the entrance to the Gowanus, in water that is identified as Gowanus Bay or Gowanus Creek depending on the map. It stopped short of entering the narrow part of the canal, which begins at the Hamilton Avenue Bridge.

The Brooklyn-Gowanus Whale is a baleen whale, which is so called because it has baleen plates to filter food from water. They're actually quite large when adult sized and are known for their ability to jump fully out of the water. More on the whale over at Wikipedia. Experts are now apparently worried the whale will get stuck in Brooklyn waters.

We learned about the story, which looks like it broke on WNBC, when we got an email from a Daily News reporter asking us to call about the whale in the Gowanus. (In addition to straying into territory where whales normally don't go, it came close enough to the Gowanus make you worry for its health.) In fact, we were quoted in the AP story that went out nationwide about the whale as follows:
Robert Guskind, founder of, a Web site that cover the canal, told the Daily News the recent storm probably sent sewage into the canal. "It's probably the worst time to wander in there," Guskind told the tabloid in Wednesday's edition.
The quote came from the Daily News story on the whale, which was ironically first spotted by John Quadrozzi, who also first saw the Gowanus Harp Seal, Gowanda, several years ago.

The fact is that after Sunday's Nor'easter the level of what they politely call fecal coliform must be astoundingly high. Raw sewage flows directly into the canal during heavy rains and the canal absorbed vast amounts of it on Sunday. Put crudely, fecal coliform is the bacterial count created by crap in the water.

Needless to say, the number of stories and blog posts on the wayward whale multiplied exponentially. You can catch some video shot by News Chopper 4 here and a report on WCBS here. amNY has some nice photos, one of which is pictured above, here.

[Photo Courtesy of amNY]

Related Post:
Brooklinks: Special Gowanus Whale Edition
Whale in the Gowanus Canal



Blogger morphogen said...

This is quite amazing. I grew up in Brooklyn under the Gowanus expressway, and never ever thought I'd ever hear of a whale in the Canal. Though my brother imagines he saw one from the train once.

I guess the species has been identified as a Minke Whale. This is the smallest of the baleen whales, growing only to a mere 23 feet in length, and 5 tons in weight. It is also the species of whale that Japan and Iceland have decided are OK to hunt. Poor little whale!
More info on Minke whales here.

1:08 PM  

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