After several hours of planning yesterday morning, the carcass of a young female fin whale was hoisted from its overnight berth at the Dundalk Marine Terminal, dumped into a large truck and carted off to a landfill, where scientists took her measurements and samples of her skin and blubber.
The whale weighed 16 1/2 tons and was 43 feet long, said John Jarkowiec, senior mammalogist at the National Aquarium at Baltimore. Aquarium staff members worked at the Quarantine Road landfill with a mammalogist from the Smithsonian Institution, where the information will be cataloged.
The dead whale was spotted just after sunrise Monday, floating in the main channel of the Patapsco River at the mouth of Curtis Bay, and was towed to the Dundalk terminal Monday afternoon by a boat the Maryland Natural Resources Police borrowed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Early yesterday, the carcass was floating belly up while police and port officials worried that it would fall or split when lifted and debated whether a flatbed trailer or a dump truck would be better suited to haul it.
The Corps of Engineers' workboat "Patapsco" and a smaller police boat maneuvered to secure nylon yacht slings around the whale, to allow it to be raised on a Port Administration boom.
Although the officials had feared the whale carcass plus a 30-ton dump truck would exceed the 55-ton weight limit at the Francis Scott Key Bridge, it weighed far less than expected when it was lowered into the truck at 12:35 p.m.
"Once it was lifted from the water, you could identify it," Mr. Jarkowiec said, citing several field marks including a distinctive white patch on the right lower jaw and a black patch on the left lower jaw.
The fin is a baleen whale, with a mouth equipped for straining out its food, and lives in the open ocean, he said, "so the animal probably was hit out at sea and carried in." It had a wound in the throat, he said.
And the whale problem could have been much bigger: The fin can grow to 79 feet and weigh 60 tons.