dead whale
A highly decomposed carcass of a 40ft whale washed ashore in Palghar on Wednesday. It was first noticed by locals around 8am, roughly 100 meters off Mahim beach's waterline, where a stench hung in the air. This is the tenth recorded incident of a dead whale washing ashore in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and nearby areas in the last three years.

Forest officials said the carcass got stuck in sand in the inter-tidal zone during high tide. "It could be of a baleen whale, though the species cannot be immediately ascertained because of decomposition," said forest officer Ruchita Sankhe.

Heavy rainfall, a stormy tidal zone and the stench made carcass removal and burial a difficult task. Workers and officials had to wait for six hours for the water to recede. Two JCBs were engaged in moving the carcass, which weighed 12 tons. "It was difficult to get into the water because of the tide and heavy rain," said Sankhe. "We hoped that high tide would make the carcass float more towards the beach, making our task easier, but that was not to be. The whale was firmly stuck in sand, and its skin and flesh had begun to peel off. It was a stinky mess."

How did the animal die? Dr Dinesh Vinherkar, a veterinarian who specializes in treating turtles and other marine creatures, said whales, like other sea creatures, naturally die in the sea, where their body decomposes. "Sometimes currents can bring them ashore. A whale's death can be due to natural causes or habitat disturbances, among other factors," said Dr Vinherkar.

At the beach, seawater finally receded around 2.30pm. While one JCB was engaged in pulling the carcass out of the sand, the other was used to dig a 40ft pit on the beach, in which the carcass was buried in the evening. Tissues have been sent for a DNA analysis for species determination.

Last January, a decomposed carcass of another 40ft whale, weighing 20 tons, was found in Uran. Forest officials and researchers said at the time that going by the dead animal's mouth structure, it looked like it could possibly be a baleen whale, though its condition made on-the-spot identification difficult. Later, tissue sample analysis reportedly confirmed this. A pit was dug in the sand and the carcass buried.