The 30-foot carcass of a whale that was found drifting at the mouth of Curtis Bay early yesterday took up a berth at the Dundalk Marine Terminal while officials and scientists decide what to do with it.
The dead whale was spotted drifting in open water in the main channel of the Patapsco River, said Cpl. Ralph L. Parker of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police.
Corporal Parker said the DNR assisted in handling the case but didn't have a boat large enough to pull the whale to shore.
So the "Patapsco," an Army Corps of Engineers boat equipped for collecting heavy de-bris, towed the whale to the marine terminal yesterday afternoon.
Then last night, the whale had to be moved to another berth to make room for an incoming ship.
John E. Dougherty, terminal operations supervisor, said the whale was brought in about 2 p.m. "It's in the water, and we're trying to make arrangements to dispose of the carcass," Mr. Dougherty said.
He said marine terminal officials were involved only to the extent that the terminal's cranes would be used to hoist the whale from the water.
It will then probably be put on a truck provided by the Natural Resources Department and disposed of, perhaps in a landfill run by the city or some other unit of government.
Mr. Dougherty said the whale didn't smell -- at least not yet -- but was "somewhat swollen" and probably had been dragged into the harbor from the Chesapeake Bay under a ship's bow.
Although he'd been contacted by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Aquarium at Baltimore about identifying the type of whale and taking photographs and tissue samples, Mr. Dougherty said this could be done after the carcass was removed from the terminal.
"We want to get rid of it," Mr. Dougherty said.
Although there had been talk of towing the whale back to sea or cutting it up, plans last night seemed to have settled upon using the crane to hoist the animal onto a rented trailer.
Although it's not clear who has jurisdiction over stray whale carcasses, the problem of what to do with a dead whale does arise from time to time.
"Every couple of years we get one that's killed, or one that's already dead and a ship dragged it up the bay," said Officer William Geiger of the Baltimore police marine unit.
It was, in fact, in May 1989 that a dead whale last presented the same kind of problem. At that time, however, spectators had to be kept away from the whale, tied up on Colgate Creek, because it was feared that the carcass would explode in the heat.
Officials first decided to tow the whale out to sea, but the Coast Guard vetoed that idea on the grounds that if the whale sank while under tow, it could take a cutter down with it. Finally, it was decided to bury the whale in the Quarantine Road landfill.