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After a brief (by universal standards) hiatus, FISH OBITS is back on its feet, this time by the long awaited Second in the Series of Sad, Complex Stories, this one by long awaited guest super-star blogger, Tim Sutton, concerning Baits and Hooks, Sadness, Puzzles and Stupidity, Denial of Our Reptilian Natures, the Interconnection of All Species, and the Omnipresence of Death:

While checking facebook this morning, I noticed a story trending on the Wall Street Journal: “Washed Up Whale Puzzles Long Island Beachgoers.” Having been “hooked” by the “bait” I clicked the link to find out a 58 foot long, male fin whale washed up Thursday morning on the beach in Smith Point County Park on Fire Island, part of a string of barrier islands along Long Island’s southern shore. The WSJ quotes a local eyewitness:

“I hope it isn’t the same whale that was alive in June,” said Mr. Peluso, a real estate broker who owns a boat and spends much of his free time on the water. “It was jumping out of the water all around my boat.”

No one, it seems, pointed out to Mr. Peluso that the whale was in all likelihood alive in June. That it must have been alive in June, else how could it be dead in October? And no one, it seems, pointed out the irony that a man who makes his living by selling land that does not belong to him spends so much of his time on the water.

Some reports indicate bruising on the whale’s back (known as the dorsal side by whale-ithologists), characteristic of having been run over by a boat. “NBC.” described it as, “blunt force trauma, or ship strike.” But don’t let this circumstantial evidence lead you to believe Mr. Peluso is the prime suspect:

Mr. Peluso said the whale, which wound up on its back, appeared to have been bitten on its underbelly by sharks. “You can see the teeth marks that were carved through the blubber,” Mr. Peluso said, describing chunks of missing flesh in pictures he had taken.
Could this be the same shark recently terrorizing the town of Scituate?

Kimberly Durham, a biologist from the Riverhead Foundation was called to the scene to investigate. It seems a leatherback sea turtle was found washed up on the same beach sometime last week. However, the WSJ states:

Ms. Durham said she does not believe the two instances to be related. “There’s no indication that the two animals were related in any way,” she said.

Are whales and sea turtles related? Well, I suppose it depends how many generations back you want to go. I’m not trying to imply that the whale’s great great aunt on its mother’s side was a sea turtle, or anything so provocative. But, are we not all related to the first creature that crawled up from the primordial ooze? From this perspective, to say there is no reason to think the sea turtle and fin whale are related may be premature, despite any superficial differences between mammals and reptiles.

Thinking back to the title of the WSJ report, this all leads me to ask, just what was so puzzling?

Phineas, the fin whale
So carefree in June,
jumping and playing
with the boats
along Long Island’s shore.
Sam, the leatherback turtle,
a kissing cousin,
tried to warn Phineas,
“Watch your back!
Or we’ll be all washed up.”
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