WHALE WASHES UP
By SALLY GORDON
WHEN Malcolm Cooper wandered out to the beachfront at Brooms Head to check the sea yesterday morning, a huge white mass lying limp on the sand caught his attention.
The fisherman and his mate wandered down the beach and realised they'd come across the rotting carcass of a whale head.
The 2.5-metre long skull of what was thought to be a humpback whale, with half of its bottom jaw missing, had washed up on the beach just north of the Brooms Head Caravan Park.
Standing about one-metre high, the broken skull was covered in white, sinewy flesh that in some parts was stained pink from old blood and oozed oil in the incoming tide.
National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Steve Hodgson, who was on the beach at the time, said that before its death the whale could have been anywhere up to 10metres long.
He said it appeared as though the animal had been dead for a couple of weeks.
NPWS spokesperson Lawrence Orel said humpback whales were passing the NSW coastline on their annual migration north to warmer tropical waters to mate.
Mr Orel said due to the decomposed state of the carcass it would be difficult to ascertain exactly how the whale had died, but said it was likely the creature had died from natural causes.
"It's a bit hard to tell, we could probably take some tissue samples ... but given that there's so little of the remains left it's not enough to give us a clear indication," he said.
"It may have died from old age or had a collision with a vessel but we've had no reports of that."
Mr Orel said the whale's death was not necessarily bad news for the marine ecosystem.
"Given that the population of whales is slowly but steadily increasing, it's in a sense not a bad sign, it's just a sign that we have a healthy and growing population."
NPWS maintained the most appropriate method of disposing the head was to bury the carcass in the sand where the remainder of the flesh would be eaten.
The skeleton may be retrieved later for scientific research.