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New Jersey Researchers Examine Whale Found Dead In New York Harbor

Panorama of New York Harbor at dawn as seen from Chopper 880, April 10, 2014. (credit: Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880)

Panorama of New York Harbor at dawn as seen from Chopper 880, April 10, 2014. (credit: Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880)

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Researchers were working Wednesday to determine the cause of death for a 57-foot-long whale that was found dead in New York Harbor over the weekend.

Representatives from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J. were in Jersey City conducting a necropsy on the finback that weighs 55 to 60 tons.

The whale was found stuck on the bow of a container ship in the harbor on Saturday and later towed to an Army Corps of Engineers station near Liberty State Park.

Jay Pagel, senior field technician for the stranding center, said it isn’t uncommon for whales to make their way into shipping lanes as they travel up and the down the East Coast, though they don’t usually stray into the harbor.

According to Pagel, the last time a whale was found in the harbor was about four or five years ago.

Whales can occasionally become lodged on the front of a container ship or other large vessel because of the way the bows are constructed.

The whale was laid out on a dock as researchers prepared for the necropsy Wednesday morning. The procedure entails dissecting the body and checking the organs, Pagel said.

A deep indentation was clearly visible on its underside near the jaw, but otherwise it looked surprisingly undisturbed.

The whale was in much better shape than many the stranding center finds that may have been eaten by sharks or suffered other damage, Pagel said. That could help yield information on whether the whale was dead before it was struck by the ship or whether it was suffering from some debilitating condition that may have led to its death.

“Finding something this intact is an unusual opportunity,” he said.

Pagel said the necropsy was expected to be completed by the end of the day Wednesday.

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