Beached Beaked Whale

Academy scientists are studying the rare beaked whale that washed up on Ocean Beach in July.

When one of the first recorded Baird's beaked whales (Berardius bairdii) from central California washed up on a Monterey beach in 1925, many onlookers believed it was some sort of sea monster, dubbing it the Moore's Beach Monster. However, by the time its skull was collected, cleaned and catalogued into the Academy's Mammalogy collection, scientists had identified the huge creature as a rare type of beaked whale (the skull is on display in the Academy's Cowell Hall). Baird's beaked whales, named for American naturalist Spencer F. Baird, spend most of their time diving for squid and deepwater fish far off the coast, which is why they are not often seen. Although they are not considered endangered, only about 400 animals are thought to live off the western U.S. shoreline, compared to some 22,000 migratory gray whales.

On July 20, another Baird's beaked whale washed up on the California coast - this time on San Francisco's Ocean Beach. One of only three known specimens from central California, the whale was a mature male, measuring 41 ½ feet from beak to tail. Academy scientists were called to the scene to record information about the animal and collect useful samples before the body was buried on the beach the next day. They collected the Academy's second Berardius bairdii skull, which is currently undergoing an initial cleansing process. After a series of subsequent cleanings, it will become available to researchers around the world.

Baird's beaked whales have just two pairs of teeth. This tooth, encrusted with barnacles, led Academy scientists to deduce that the whale had been dead for several weeks before it washed up. Photo: Jack Dumbacher, CAS.


Local beachgoers gathered to investigate the 41 ½ foot whale after it washed up on Ocean Beach last month.
Photo: Jack Dumbacher, CAS.
Academy field associate Ray Bandar worked to remove the whale's skull, which will be added to the Academy's skull library once it has been cleaned.
Photo: Jack Dumbacher, CAS.