In the Gowanus Canal, which runs a mile and a half through a narrow industrial zone near some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, a seven foot dolphin swam last week. It is thought that he came from the canal from the Atlantic Ocean through the Lower and Upper New York Bays and then Gowanus Bay, which leads to the canal – about 20 miles away from the open ocean.
It seemed like a rare glimpse of the beauty that is nature and many people had a chance witness it. Bundled onlookers watched the dolphin surface once in a while, snapping pictures with their cell phones as they could. A news helicopter hovered over the canal. But this little story has anything but a happy ending.
Though the deep freeze weather didn’t seem to faze the lost porpoise, polluted sediment and mud from the bottom of the polluted canal churned as he splashed and swam around. Black gunk stuck covered its snout and onlookers watched as the dolphin tried to shake it off.
But despite the dolphin’s bleak situation, experts decided not to interfere unless the dolphin failed to make it out during high tide Friday night.
“We erred on the side of saying, ‘OK, if this is an animal that were just lost or disoriented, this would be the least invasive course of action, to give it the most chance of success,” Robert DiGiovanni, a senior biologist with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Prevention told Fox News.
The canal, named a Superfund site in 2010 (the government can force polluters to pay for restoration), had served as a dumping ground for coal yards, fuel refineries and chemical factories for more than a century. Everything from purple ink to tar found its way into the canal. Eventually, it took on an unnatural purplish hue, earning it the local nickname “The Lavender Lake.”
As of right now, experts don’t know why the dolphin wandered into the canal in the first place, nor do they know if the pollution played a part in its death. DiGiovanni said that the dolphin could have been disoriented or even sick before it wandered into the canal. Experts plan to conduct a necropsy to find out.
As sad as this case is, it’s not uncommon. Sea creatures often wander into city waters, but very rarely do they make it out alive. Just last August near Long Island, south of the canal, a dolphin was found dead. In June in the Hudson River near Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers sports complex, another dolphin washed ashore. A baby minke whale wandered into the Gowanus Bay back in 2007, but it also died. A 20-foot humpback whale that toured the city waters of New York in 2009 was one of the few happy stories; he managed to leave safely via the New York Harbor.