ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — A female humpback whale known as Spinnaker, familiar to whale watchers and famous for several entanglements with rope in the ocean, washed ashore Thursday on Mount Desert Island.
Alerted to the presence of a whale carcass washed up on the north side of Great Head Thursday, Rosemary Seton and colleagues from Allied Whale at College of the Atlantic went to investigate. Comparing photographs of the carcass to images in a humpback whale catalog maintained by the group, they identified the animal as Spinnaker, first sighted in 2004.
Seton said Friday no cause of death has been determined.
“It’s a very sad day,” Bar Harbor Whale Watch naturalist and policy director Zack Klyver said. “I’ve personally seen Spinnaker on dozens of trips, feeding offshore.”
Klyver has also been aboard whale watch boats when they encountered Spinnaker in distress on more than one occasion. The first was in 2006. Another was last September off Mount Desert Rock. In both cases crews from Maine Marine Patrol and the whale research program at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Mass. freed the animal the day after it was discovered. Last month the whale was spotted entangled off Cashe’s Ledge (90 miles from Provincetown) by an aerial survey and successfully freed, Klyver said.
Researchers with Allied Whale began taking measurements and data Sunday from the 11-year old whale.