By Pete Thomas
A humpback whale carcass that was towed offshore by Newport Beach lifeguards last Thursday was preyed upon by a large great white shark on Saturday, and towed offshore again Monday after nearly washing onto the beach in Oceanside in North San Diego County.
The accompanying footage was captured by Keith Poe about 15 miles offshore, southwest of Dana Point. With Poe was Ryan Logan, a Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab grad student, who placed two scientific tags in the female shark estimated to measure nearly 18 feet.
The carcass is that of an adult female humpback whale nicknamed Scarlet. The cause of death has not been determined, but the whale had previously endured a prolonged fishing gear entanglement, and subsequent lice infestation. The carcass was towed by Newport Beach to avoid a messy situation if it were to wash ashore.
The carcass was under tow again early Monday by Oceanside lifeguards, after being spotted yards from the coast. "The carcass almost entered the surf line, and had it done so it would have ended up on the beach," said Greg DeAvila, battalion chief for the Oceanside Fire Department.
The adult female white shark was believed to have long since abandoned its feast, but DeAvila said there were "still plenty of other fish" swimming around the carcass. He added that lifeguards hoped to tow the carcass 10 miles offshore.
So in essence, once again, one county has passed a whale carcass off to another.
Last summer the carcass of another popular humpback whale, nicknamed Wally, was towed offshore by lifeguards in Los Angeles County and Orange County before coming ashore a stinking mess in North San Diego County. (That carcass attracted several white sharks as it drifted offshore.)
After Wally washed ashore near the bottom of the stairs at Grandview Beach in Encinitas, contractors were called upon to truck the remains to a landfill.