Behind the scenes of a whale necropsy

2/8/17: 13News Now reporter Steven Graves was out at Virginia's Eastern Shore to witness a humpback whale's necropsy

CAPE CHARLES, Va (WVEC) -- The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response team has begun trying to determine what killed the second whale within a week in the Chesapeake Bay.

The young, male humpback was spotted near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on Sunday and washed onto Virginia's Eastern Shore on Tuesday.

The response team performed a necropsy Wednesday on the shores of Kiptopeke State Park. Crews started cutting into the whale since there were no outside signs of trauma.

“We’ll be focusing on examining the skeleton..looking under the skin for blood clots," said Alex Costidis, Stranding Team Coordinator. “It’s kind of challenging to get into it, so that’s why we have an excavator.”

Aquarium officials estimate the whale weighs about 15,000 pounds and is approximately 36 feet long. They also believe it was spotted in the Chesapeake Bay back in 2012.

Additional crews with heavy machinery had to be called in to help in the process.

Many Cape Charles residents marveled at the sight.

“It’s sad, hopefully the scientists can get the information they need and we can determine what’s making the whales wash up," said Tammy Sprinkle.

This latest whale joins another dead humpback discovery in the Chesapeake Bay within a week.

The previous what was smaller and was determined to have propeller wounds.

Costidis said while this seems like an "uptick" in dead whales, it's to confirm because more whales are traveling to the Chesapeake Bay.

“So, the more you get, the more you expect to see some die," said Costidas.

The whale will eventually be buried and it could take several weeks before officials determine and exact cause of death. 

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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