Dead Humpback Whale Found in Amazon Jungle Baffles Scientists
Scientists are baffled by the discovery of a 26-foot-long humpback whale in the middle of the Amazon jungle, on Marajó Island in northern Brazil. The 10-ton male calf was found some 50 feet from the ocean shore, lying in the middle of a tropical mangrove where it will decompose as experts have no way of reaching it with heavy machinery.
The juvenile whale was estimated to be about a year old and is believed to have been separated from its mother during a migration, before washing up on shore in a storm. But how it landed in the middle of the thick jungle growth that far inland is still a bit of a mystery.
Scientists’ only guess is that a storm may have somehow flung the creature into the forest, though the details don’t quite add up. The animal’s carcass is relatively unscathed, and researchers are unable to reach it with bulldozers. So, how did a storm toss this behemoth of an animal that far, or push it into the jungle without leaving a clear path of destruction?
Renata Emin, project leader at the Bicho D’agua Institute, told Brazilian news publication O Liberal, “We’re still not sure how it landed here, but we’re guessing that the creature was floating close to the shore and the tide, which has been pretty considerable over the past few days, picked it up and threw it inland, into the mangrove.”
Adding to the mystery is the fact that humpback whales are almost never seen in this particular region at this time of year. According to Emin, it’s common to see them on the country’s southern coast from August through November, but rarely do they travel the hundreds of miles north to the mouth of the Amazon in February. Something strange certainly caused the not-so-little guy to get lost.
Scientists were alerted to the animal’s presence when they noticed flocking birds of prey scavenging on its carcass. And because of the animal’s peculiar and confined location they will allow it to decompose before eventually removing the bones to be displayed at a local museum.
In the past there have been bizarre meteorological phenomena that cause fish and other animals to rain from the sky during intense storms or tornadic waterspouts, though animals as large as whales have never been reported.
And while it’s more likely that a storm led to the animal being violently pushed inland, fans of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, might instantly harken back to the scene when a sperm whale is suddenly called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet, questioning the point of its existence – and body parts – as it plummets to the ground.
Maybe scientists on the ground in Brazil should also be on the lookout for a shattered bowl of petunias.
For more on the mystery of animals raining from the sky watch Out of the Blue from Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World:
New Telescope May Allow Us to View Alien Planets
As a long-awaited space telescope heads toward liftoff, a new survey of U.S. astronomers and astrophysicists puts the search for habitable planets on the top of their list for the next 10 years. This survey by the national academies of sciences, engineering, and medicine, also spelled out how to ramp up resources including ground and space telescopes.
Astronomer and Gaia News contributor Marc D’Antonio weighed in on the report. “There’s a number of aspects to this report which are very important to take away from the news and that is, number one, professional astronomers, tenured professors, astrophysics schools all are saying ‘We know there’s life out there.’ Number two, they’re saying ‘We want to find it.’”
“This is very important because what we’re seeing is part of the continued shift toward that end of the spectrum. So astronomy and astronomers are being dragged kicking and screaming in some cases, not all, down the path to say ‘We know life exists, and we think we can detect it now, and we’d like to,’ that’s a huge shift, I mean a huge shift,” D’Antonio said.
It seems like people in the general public are open to the idea of off-planet life. Why is this report so significant?
“It is news when you consider that academia has never really bought into that. So when you have a Harvard astrophysicist saying this you see the writing on the wall, academia is going down this path and they’re going to keep going down this path. And they’re going to pursue finding life in the universe.”
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated James Webb space telescope is scheduled to finally launch this month after a history of postponements and delays.