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October 31, 2012

Rockport eyes new moves on dead whale

ROCKPORT — Rockport’s beached whale carcass moved once again in the course of Monday evening’s storm, opening up an opportunity for officials to discard of the body that had previously been left to rot on the beach, with no viable solutions for removal.

The winds of Sandy combined with the high tides Monday night to pull the long-dead, much-visited, finback whale from a Penzance Road beachfront, into the water, and up onto Cape Hedge Beach near South Street. The new location is open enough that crews can now access the whale with heavy equipment, which was not possible before, as the prior beach was only accessible by a narrow foot path.

Tom French, a scientist from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries now plans to extract the whale’s bones for a museum exhibit. French, who has been salvaging whale skeletons for over 25 years, kept an eye on this whale carcass as it floated from Boston Harbor to Rockport, waiting for the right opportunity to disassemble the body, according to French.

“We wanted to extract the bones when it was in Boston Harbor, and we wanted to when it was on the other beach in Rockport. So when I heard the storm was coming it looked like it wasn’t necessarily out of reach,” French said.

When French extracts the whale bones, a six hour process that he will begin at 8 a.m. Thursday, French will save the bones to recreate the skeleton for an exhibit in the Seacoast Science Center of Rye, New Hampshire. French said whale skeletons can last for 100 years, and many on display in museums now came from whales that scientists hunted down in order to obtain their skeletons for exhibition. As scientists have worked to protect the whales, exhibition skeletons have grown less common.

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