Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Evening Edition

Officials Ponder How To Remove Dead Whale From Surf Spot

Officials Ponder How To Remove Dead Whale From Surf Spot

The massive carcass of a whale was rotting Tuesday at a popular surfing spot near San Clemente.

Monday's grim discovery of the dead whale still has people scratching their heads.

San Diego resident Thomas Hayes told Evening Edition the best way might be to let nature take its course.

"Let it rot on the beach," Hayes said. "Let the birds eat it down. That's what would happen in Baja. Maybe we should do that. That's the natural way of things."

Authorities were deciding whether to tow it out to sea or cut it into pieces and load them on trucks.

Meanwhile, crowds braved the overpowering stench to pose for photos in front of the adult gray whale that's about 40 feet long and weighs up to 60,000 pounds.

Either option for removal will be a difficult, messy process, said Rich Haydon, state parks superintendent at San Onofre State Beach.

"I don't think the carcass could have landed on a worse stretch of beach," he said, citing its limited access for vehicles and the popularity of the beach known as Lower Trestles south of San Clemente.

Using a boat would require "just the right wave" to make it out to sea during high tide, he said. There's also a growing risk that the decomposing whale, which is spilling bodily fluids onto the sand, could rupture or pull apart while being dragged back into the water.

Loading pieces of the carcass onto trucks would require a team of workers and would be hampered by a railroad trestle that provides a vertical clearance of just 12 feet for vehicles passing beneath it.

Burial on the beach isn't feasible because the stretch is mostly cobblestones, Haydon said.

A decision on what to do with the carcass isn't expected for a day or two.

The whale likely died of natural causes and was discovered Sunday on the beach.

A second deceased whale about the same size was spotted over the weekend floating off shore. That carcass is breaking apart in the water.