UPDATE: On Tuesday officials from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center said that they believed the whale was hit by a ship. It remained unclear though if it was dead or alive when it was hit.
A dead whale washed ashore on a South Jersey beach Monday afternoon, bringing out curious onlookers and experts concerned with how it died.
Officials with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center told The Press of Atlantic City that the roughly 35-foot whale showed signs of decay when it came ashore on Ocean City’s 7th Street beach on Monday around 12:30.
It was not immediately clear what caused the mammal to die but it was believed to have died about a week ago, officials said.
The whale is believed to be either a finback or sei whale, according to marine biologists.
Those types of whales are normally migrating about 70 miles off the coast this time of year. And one was seen last week spotted floating off Long Island, N.Y. about a week ago.
After news of the dead animal hit local press and Twitter, onlookers trekked down to the beach to see it for themselves.
“We came down to see, hoping it would be alive and they would be able to rescue it,” said Carol Esposito of Upper Township, N.J. “But it doesn’t look that way and it doesn’t smell that way.”
The smell was one of the main things the waves of people who came to see the animal took away from the experience.
“Very pungent -- aroma of sea life,” said Lauren Dewitsky of Lower Township, N.J.
Veterinarians were looking to examine the creature Tuesday to try and figure out why it died. After that it will be up to local public works crews to dispose of the body.