Some unknown terrible person shot a defenseless pilot whale last month, leaving it to swim the Atlantic in agony for weeks before it finally beached itself on the New Jersey shore and died. Authorities are still looking for the shooter. The bullet wound caused a fulminant infection in the whale’s jaw that prevented it from eating, so it basically starved to death. This was determined during a necropsy, an autopsy for animals.
Along with sympathy for the poor creature, this debacle aroused an interesting question: How does one autopsy a whale? With four-ton meat hooks, whaling knives and bone saws, actually. Michael Moore, a veterinarian and whale biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, does it all the time.