By Pete Thomas
A humpback whale carcass that was towed offshore late Thursday after its discovery close to Newport Beach has some human company, but so far it has not attracted large sharks.
“No sharks yet,” said Keith Poe, who tags sharks for science and was with the bloated carcass when reached Friday evening.
The adult female whale, affectionately known as Scarlet, had endured a fishing gear entanglement and a subsequent infestation of reddish lice.
Scarlet, which somehow had lost the entanglement and much of her lice, was most recently spotted alive last week inside Long Beach Harbor. She whale was thin and presumably sick.
The ballooning carcass was spotted three miles off Newport Beach on Thursday afternoon, and towed several miles offshore.
Poe was vague about his location. He first stated via email that the carcass was 15 miles offshore, drifting slowly toward Oceanside. Poe later stated that the carcass was farther offshore.
“The winds will be shifting all over the place over the next few days,” Poe said, adding that there was a large swell.
The shark tagger hopes that Scarlet will soon attract great white sharks.
Last June, a humpback whale nicknamed Wally was found dead off Dockweiler State Beach in Los Angeles County, and towed offshore.
Poe found his sharks then – and they did not appreciate the intrusion. Several sharks, including an 18-foot white shark, slammed into his 24-foot vessel.
“The boat was full-on attacked 7 different times… usually at sunrise or sunset,” Poe said at the time.
The sharks also feasted on Wally's carcass before losing interest after it began to rot.
Wally was towed at least three times by L.A. County lifeguards. Then, over the course of a week, the carcass drifted southeast and threatened to come ashore at least twice in Orange County, before making landfall in San Diego County. Finally, contractors were hired to cut up and haul the carcass to a landfill.
It remains to be seen whether Scarlet becomes a problem for Oceanside or San Diego lifeguards, but at some point the carcass is likely to attract sharks.
–Photos showing Scarlet on Friday (top) and a white shark feasting on Wally last summer are courtesy of Keith Poe