Enormous Whale Washes Ashore In San Diego's Pacific Beach

December 10, 2023

An enormous, 52-foot-long dead whale has washed ashore in San Diego's Pacific Beach.

Early Sunday morning, a large, deceased whale was found washed ashore on the beach slightly south of The Wayfarer Hotel near the border of San Diego's Pacific Beach and Mission Beach neighborhoods. The whale, believed to be a female, juvenile Fin whale, did not have any visible injuries, although it appeared to be bleeding. It is unclear if the animal was still alive after it was beached. A similar-looking whale was reportedly seen by people in Mexico close to the shore in Playas Tijuana on Saturday.

Lifeguards were notified of the whale around 7am and quickly cordoned off the area to keep away a growing crowd. By noon, a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had tractors struggling to push the whale back into the ocean, as blood was pouring from the body. Although they eventually got the corpse back into the water, the tow line initially snapped leaving the whale close to shore for hours. 

Fin whales, also known as finback whale or common rorqual and formerly known as herring whale or razorback whale, are the second-largest species of whale in the world, growing up to 85 feet long and a maximum estimated weight of up to 114 tons. They are listed as a "vulnerable" endangered species, and were heavily hunted during the whaling era, with 725,000 being killed in the Southern Hemisphere alone during the mid-1900s.  

"It's probably in the first couple years of its life," said Michael Milstein, a spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries West Coast region. "It didn’t appear to have been dead very long because there wasn't much evidence of scavenging or decomposition. But there was also no obvious sign of the cause of death."
Researchers took tissue samples from the dead whale before it was ultimately towed out to sea. It took a team of bulldozers, a jet ski and a boat to finally pull the dead mammal past the surf line by around 4pm on Sunday. Lifeguards towed the whale approximately a mile and a half off shore where it reportedly sunk.