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Whale might have caused sinking

OCT. 3 — Authorities suspect that a collision with a 35-foot humpback whale is what caused a sportfishing boat to sink off Delaware late last month, its seven passengers drifting in a life raft for nearly two days.

The carcass of a whale washed up on a southern New Jersey beach last week, news reports say. Robert Schoelkopf, director of New Jersey’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center, performed the necropsy and says the whale’s injuries and estimated time of death were consistent with the time the fishermen say they hit a “black object” and their boat began taking on water. The otherwise healthy whale was struck so hard, he says, that its internal organs were coming out of its mouth.

The men, all from Pennsylvania, told Coast Guard authorities that their boat, named Chief, struck a large black object around noon Sept. 23 about 30 miles from the Indian River Inlet, according to news reports. The engine room began to fill with water and, despite efforts to pump it out, the men abandoned the boat and climbed into a life raft. The men spent nearly two days drifting before a Coast Guard helicopter crew spotted them Sept. 24 in 15-foot seas about 70 miles from shore.

One of the crewmembers didn’t initially think the boat had struck a whale but that he wouldn’t be surprised if that was what had happened, a news report says. “It kind of made sense with what I saw in the water,” the man says in the report.

— Jason Fell