, Gloucester, MA

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October 23, 2012

Rockport to let nature 'take its course' on whale

ROCKPORT — A dead whale, estimated to be about 54 foot long, lied sprawled across a Penzance Road beachfront Monday after washing up over the weekend, drawing spectators from Rockport and from beyond Cape Ann.

But, there will be more time to view the whale, since that beachfront is where it will stay until nature takes its course, officials are saying.

Rockport’s Department of Public Works, in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was tasked with disposing the carcass, after the whale — estimated to have been dead for two to three weeks — rolled onto the rocky, jagged beachfront Saturday morning.

The carcass is located on town-owned property that is situated among a handful of homes, less than about 50 feet from the closest home. In the past, Rockport officials have buried smaller whales that washed up on beaches, but because large equipment would be unable to reach this beach, DPW Director Joe Parisi said officials have little choice but to let the carcass deteriorate and wash out to sea bit by bit.

“This whale is pretty large and in a difficult location so the options aren’t the same,” Parisi said. “It’s nearly impossible.”

Neither NOAA nor the Public Works department had a plan for diluting the stench of the rotting carcass, either. But Parisi is hopeful that the oncoming cold weather will tamper the smell.

“It’s not the heart of the beach season and it’s not in a location where people are going to the beach,” Parisi added

Volunteers from the New England Aquarium traveled to Rockport Saturday morning to measure the whale, examine it and attempt to determine what had happened to the male animal, according to Tony LaCasse of the New England Aquarium.

“Our job is we are essentially the whale coroner,” LaCasse said. “This whale is too old to have any significant findings.”

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