A disturbing find was made as a Royal Australian Navy destroyer docked in San Diego on Saturday: Two dead whales—one of them as long as a tractor-trailer—had been stuck to its hull, CNN reports. The endangered fin whales, one 65 feet long and the other 25 feet, became dislodged as the HMAS Sydney berthed at Naval Base San Diego. The carcasses were secured with booms ahead of their removal, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. In a statement, the Australian navy said it "takes marine mammal safety seriously and is disheartened this incident occurred."
The 481-foot ship's hull extends more than 23 feet below the waterline, according to the Australian navy. It has been conducting joint exercises with the US Navy in the area since early last month. John Calambokidis, research biologist at the Cascadia Research Collective, tells ABC10 that the incident is "sad, but it's also not surprising." He says whale strikes are often not detected until the ship slows down. "In the vast majority of cases I'm familiar with, the ship is unaware of having struck the whale," he says. Calambokidis says the fin whale's size, and its habit of feeding and resting near the surface, makes it vulnerable to ship strikes. He says that the incidents could be unrelated, but it's "also possible this is a mother and calf from the size distribution." (Read more fin whales stories.)