By Katherine Belcher, U.S. Army Garrison Torii Station Public AffairsMarch 25, 2013
TORII STATION, Okinawa (March 26, 2013) -- A beached humpback whale was discovered March 20 on a reef approximately 300 yards off Torii Beach here by a Directorate of Public Works employee.
Not long after the 3 p.m. sighting, it was determined that the whale, a young female measuring 10 meters in length, was dead.
Michael Riegert, Torii Station's environmental chief, said there were no indications the whale was alive when it landed on the reef. Okinawan officials were immediately notified of the situation by Torii Station's community relations office.
Within 24 hours, the whale had been pushed onto the beach by rising tides, making cleanup and disposal the responsibility of the U.S. Army. Riegert and his staff contacted veterinarians, marine biologists and researchers from the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium to coordinate disposal and burial.
On the morning of March 22, 30 aquarium employees converged on Torii Beach to dissect the whale and take research samples in an attempt to determine how the whale died.
The whale did not appear to have any visible signs of injury and researchers said they would know more after testing was conducted on the tissue samples. The researchers' dissection was careful and methodical so the bones could be extracted with minimal damage, they said.
Once analysis of the whale was completed on the beach, the bones and other parts were buried in an empty field in Oki Ward's farming area on Torii Station. Researchers from the aquarium said they will return in one year to retrieve the bones for more testing.