Whale Graffiti: Fraternity Tags Washed-Up Minke Carcass in New Jersey

Saturday, 03 May 2014 03:05 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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A fraternity apparently spray-painted graffiti on a dead whale that washed up on a New Jersey shoreline Thursday.

The Minke whale, which authorities said seems to have died of natural causes several days previously, washed up next to Atlantic City’s Central Pier. The graffiti on the whale’s body are purple Greek letters that, although hard to decipher clearly, point to the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity and also include the numbers 94 on the end.

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According to The Press of Atlantic City, shop owners near where the whale washed up are less concerned about the graffiti than where the whale will be buried. Initial plans are to bury it nearby, and some worry the decomposing animal would smell in the summer.

It’s not uncommon for whales and other sea creatures to wash up on shore, Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, told The Press of Atlantic City. Recently, he added, a 57-foot fin whale washed up in Jersey City. This Minke whale is between 13 and 15 feet long.

Schoelkopf said samples were taken from the whale to try to determine what killed the creature.

Several communities have been dealing with whale carcasses recently, including three Canadian communities on the Newfoundland shoreline. Townspeople there were concerned about the whales exploding as they decomposed.

"Pressure release is sometimes slow, and sometimes catastrophic," Bruce Mate, director of the marine biology institute at Oregon State University, told The Verge. "The gas buildup is just a normal part of the degradation of tissue."

The gas buildup comes from gases, like methane, that are produced as tissues decompose in a process called organ liquefaction. The blubber on whales tends to keep those gases inside until the skin finally decomposes enough to release them, or until someone breaks the barrier and releases them.

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