Researchers are trying to determine what caused the deaths of three large whales found along Alaska’s coastline within a single week in late June. Initially a fin whale died and then two humpbacks, tissue samples have been taken from all three whales and sent to labs for analysis. It may take some time before researchers know more about how and why the whales died. “Festus,” the Glacier Bay humpback, observed by scientists since the late 1960s may provide the most clues, because researchers were able to conduct a full necropsy. To date there has been no evidence of skull or other bone fractures, but indications have shown the whale was not healthy as there were abundant numbers of copepod parasites (known as whale lice), as well as diminished fat reserves.
It is not known yet if these recent deaths are related to the dozens of whale deaths in the Gulf of Alaska last year, labelled an “unusual mortality event,” the cause is still under investigation.