One Day at Duck Beach

by Kylie, Delaney and Ella

Conservationist Kylie, Age 12
As the world changes, so do our minds. On this day we were supposed to sleep in. It was worth getting up when we received a call from Karen Clark, who is the wildlife educational specialist at the Outer Banks Wildlife Educational Center in North Carolina. There had been a report of a 30-foot whale about 150 feet off the coast of the Duck beaches.
Les Kempf, one of the NEST ATV drivers, was riding to look for sea turtle nests. He saw something unusual in the water. It was coming closer to shore. It became apparent to him that it was a whale.

Once we got there, we could tell by the smell that the whale was dead. We could see that the whale was a dead humpback whale, now two or three feet from the beach. She was bitten by a tiger shark on her tail flukes. She was bitten by many more sharks. Some sharks bit all the way through all of the layers of blubber and some of her insides had come out.

As you can see, there are lots of large barnacles on the whale. The biologists can tell how old the barnacles are by their size and then can get an estimate of the whale’s age.

Sometimes the facts are more than you can see. Experts were called to assess the animal. A stranding crew from Hatteras also came to examine the whale. They took tissue and bone samples. They determined that it was a young female. She had apparently been dead for five or six days. There was evidence of entanglement from fishing gear on the tail. After dying, she sank to the bottom of the ocean but, as gas built up in her, she rose and began to float.

Conservationist Delaney, Age 10
Late in the afternoon, we came home from the beach and got a phone call about an endangered species—a loggerhead sea turtle. The mother laid eggs 51 days ago! Normal incubation for turtles is 55 to 80 days. We’ve had a really hot summer so every night my sisters, grandma, and I check on the turtle nest. I went to check on the nest with them and we saw a sinkhole. A sinkhole means that turtles are moving under the sand after coming out of their eggs. The turtles can breathe under the sand for three days.

As we were sitting at the nest we could see the bulldozer digging a deep hole in the sand dunes to bury the dead whale we saw this morning.

Conservationist Ella, Age 7
We ate crabs for lunch! We caught lunch with a string and chicken necks. We threw 30 crabs back into the water because they were too small, and brought eight crabs home. It is against the law to keep the little ones. We took one crab home and we thought it was dead, but it was not. My grandma put it back in the water. It was playing dead with us. It was funny!
Media Gallery

Dead Humpback Whale on Duck Beach
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Barnacles on Humpback Whale
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Digging Hole for Dead Whale
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Sinkhole at Loggerhead Nest
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mugshotAbout the author:

Kylie, Delaney and Ella are interested in the conservation of ocean animals. They are students in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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