Whales are dying along East Coast—and scientists are racing to understand why
For more than two years, scientists have been working to figure out the underlying cause of this so-called “unusual mortality event.”
Virginia Beach, Va.On a blustery winter afternoon off the coast of Virginia Beach, people are pressing forward on the bow of the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center’s whale watching boat as a dorsal fin breaks the surface. Cameras click in staccato for a second or two before the humpback whale dives to feed again.
The relatively small dorsal fin belies the humpback’s size. Calves weigh about a ton. Adults can grow heavier than a yellow school bus loaded with kindergarten students. Few things that swim in the sea can break their bones.
A mile to the north, however, by the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, a massive cargo ship is pushing south toward the whales. On this Saturday in late January, these humpbacks are