CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Crowds lined Carolna Beach today to catch a glimpse of a 15-foot whale that washed up last night. Now scientists are trying to figure out what happened to it.
It's not every day you get to see a 15-foot whale washed ashore, but Thursday morning the dead animal was a must-see attraction for many at Carolina Beach.
"I'm just like, woah!" Ayla Adamec said as she checked out the whale. "But I did expect this whale to be a little bit bigger because of what you see on TV and everything, but it's still awesome."
Someone spotted the 15-foot sub-adult Minke whale near the Carolina Beach Boardwalk Wednesday night.
"The animal could have died of natural causes, disease, parasitism or even potentially shark interaction," said Paul Barrington from the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
Barrington says whales are actually pretty common off our shores. He says because many migrate south for the winter, our coast serves as their highway.
"You can almost parallel say the right whale migration pattern to paralleling I-95 up and down the east coast of the United States," Barrington said.
There were shark bites on the whale's body, but scientists do not know if sharks fed on the whale before or after it died. They say the great white spotted off the coast last week could be responsible for some of the bites.
"It does look like there is some bigger bites that are probably from those great whites that are out there, but the great white didn't feed on it all that much. It just nibbled on it," said William McClellan of UNCW's Marine Mammal Stranding Program.
UNCW students and professors performed a necropsy on the whale to find out exactly how it died. With the exam over what will happen to the rotting carcass?
"There will be a deep pit dug here," McClellan said. "The crabs have to have something to eat, too, out here. It end up being crab food in the long run, so it keeps it cycling out here in the environment."
Barrington says the results from the necropsy should come back in three to four months.