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The whale that got away

Braving the stench of a dead humpback whale that had washed ashore in Monterey Bay, MBARI engineering technician Johnny Ferreira examines a towing line from the research vessel Zephyr (in the background), which he had attached to the whale's flukes. Between 2004 and 2008, an MBARI research team led by marine biologist Bob Vrijenhoek sank five dead whales in the depths of Monterey Bay to study the animal communities that develop around them. In each case, the team had to find a dead whale, tow it to sea, and then get it to sink. In this case, the team tried various techniques to "ventilate" the bloated whale, but failed to sink it, even using four tons of train wheels as weight. Leaving the carcass anchored at sea, the crew returned the next day with more weight. By that time, however, the carcass had either drifted away or sank of its own accord, and was never seen again.

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