Aquarium examines dead whale that washed ashore in Cape Henry

Image Credit: LaVoy Harrell/WAVY Photo

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A dead whale was spotted over the weekend in the water near Cape Henry.

Matt Klepeisz, spokesman for the Virginia Aquarium, said a juvenile humpback whale was spotted late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

Officials believe the whale was alive when it was hit by a boat. Scientists aren’t sure how close the whale was to shore when it was hit.

“We also found some extremely fresh fish in the throat and stomach,” said Susan Barco, Virginia Aquarium Research Coordinator. “That means it had to be feeding very close to the time of death.”

A Virginia Aquarium team removed the whale from water and onto the beach. Aquarium staff performed a necropsy Monday afternoon to examine the whale and determine the exact cause of death.

The carcass of the whale was buried in the sand near 80th Street. Its body parts were taken for further testing.

Scientists say the whale’s organs can tell a story about how and what it was doing before it died.

Photos: Dead whale washes ashore in Cape Henry

The scene of staff members examining the whale drew a crowd Monday, with many people stopping to take photos. Parents who spoke with 10 On Your Side said this is a teaching moment to show kids what whales look like and what the aquarium is doing.

“I have five children I home school,” Ainsley Arment said. “It was a perfect opportunity to just take everything they are learning and to bring it life.”

This is the third time a dead whale has been discovered in the Hampton Roads area in the past two weeks.

On February 2, a dead juvenile whale was found near the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and another was found near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on February 4. 

“We really can’t tell whether we are seeing an uptick or downtick,” Barco said. “It really doesn’t happen enough to tell if we are really seeing a trend.”

Stay tuned to WAVY.com for updates.