San Diego lifeguards believe their best window for removing a dead 50-foot whale from a Point Loma beach is Wednesday at 6.50 a.m.
“Mother Nature is ultimately in charge,” said San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Greg Buchanan.
The fin whale washed up Saturday near the Point Loma Waste Treatment Plant on Gatchell Road. David Huntamer runs the plant. He says the stench is getting worse.
"It's growing as we speak, I'm a little concerned by Wednesday it's going to be pretty rancid out here," said Huntamer.
Removing the carcass has presented quite a challenge for lifeguards. In terms of size, fin whales are second only to the enormous blue whale and can weigh up to 70-tons.
“At this point, our desire is to try to do it later on in the week, when the tides are higher. Try to avoid some of the rain,” said Lt. Greg Buchanan.
Another hurdle is the area.
“The restriction is going to make it tough. It’s not a public area, basically,” said Lt. Buchanan. “It’s a pretty deep channel down there, so we’ll be able to get, hopefully, our boat in pretty close to tow it out.”
The surf is also a factor. So far, lifeguards think their best possible window is at 6.50 a.m. on Wednesday. First they need to coordinate with other agencies.
“To make they know what we’re doing and everyone gets an opportunity to do what they need to do associated with the mammal,” said Lt. Buchanan.
More meetings were scheduled for Monday afternoon to discuss the extrication. In the meantime, the whale remains beached, waiting to be hauled away.
“We wrapped the tail so we can attach it to our tow line when we do decide to tow it out,” said Lt. Buchanan.
Once the whale has been removed it will be taken to Fiesta Island where scientists will determine how it died.
The whale will then be hauled to the Miramar Landfill.
Lt. Buchanan doesn’t believe it has been dead for long.
“It seems relatively fresh. It hasn’t decomposed much,” said Lt. Buchanan.
Lifeguards weren’t aware that a whale was in distress until they received word that the fin whale had washed ashore.
“Our goal is to try to prevent them from getting onto a beach, if we know that they’re there,” said Lt. Buchanan.
About nine whales have washed ashore in San Diego County over the last fifteen years, according to lifeguards.