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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Magnificent marine mammal washes up on Santa Cruz shore, is carted off to dump.

Big Fish Story

Last week when the battered carcass of a yearling gray whale was plucked from the beach by tow trucks and spirited away on a flatbed, some locals were incensed that the majestic--albeit rank--creature was on its way to the Dimeo Lane dump. But it may not be that bad. "A lot of people haven't been to our landfill," says wharf supervisor Dan Buecher. "That whale is in its own grave, by itself, and actually has a view."

Buecher says that the other, preferable option--a burial at sea--was attempted hours after the whale was spotted, but that wind and wave conditions did not allow the body to sink and carried her right back in. "The whale almost made it back before our guys did," he says.

Dramatic seasonal tides made a second attempt too dangerous, and, coupled with the rapid decomposition of the 4-ton body, both scientists from UCSC's Long Marine Lab and wharf officials saw constructive uses for the whale slipping away. "The marine lab got as much science out of it as they could," says Buecher. "This was our last choice."

After Friday's spectacular removal on West Cliff by North County Towing, Craig Pearson, superintendent of waste disposal, saw to it that the whale got a decent burial. "Sometimes people bring in squid, or when the harbor gets overwhelmed we have to bring fish up here. So I know if you put it in with the regular garbage it's terrible," he said.

Instead of heaping the poor thing on a pile of trash, Pearson had a trench dug measuring 20 feet deep, 30 feet long and 6 feet wide. "I basically I went as deep as my excavator would go," he said.

A loader rolled the carcass into the hole, and a compactor fit her in nice and snug before she was covered. And as for the possibility that the whale will linger on, as perfume from an unseen censer? "I'm 95 percent sure we shouldn't have a problem. We're right up on the bluffs of the coasts--it's very windy up here. We very rarely have any odor," said Pearson. "But still, to see such a beautiful animal end up like that--it was sad."

S.C.'s Bravest

We all know, but often forget, that walking among us are unannounced heroes. The Santa Cruz County chapter of the American Red Cross is seeking nominations of such characters of notable courage for its 2008 Heroes Breakfast. A tradition started by the Red Cross, it was adopted three years ago by the local chapter.

Potential nominees do need to meet certain criteria: the brave men and women considered for the nomination must either live or work in Santa Cruz County, though the deed worth honoring need not have occurred within the county. While the act does not have to have occurred within the Cruz, it does have to be as recent as Jan. 1, 2007.

The 10 categories for the nominations include: good Samaritan, animal rescue, education, law enforcement, lifetime achievement, medical professional, military, rescue professional, workplace and youth. The winners will be chosen by a selection committee.

Local companies or individuals are responsible for sponsoring each category.

The deadline to nominate a hero is April 10. Filling out a nomination form, with a place to share your hero's story, is easily done online. Last year's hero stories are also included on the site.

The breakfast will be held at Seascape Golf Club in Aptos on May 20. All proceeds will benefit Santa Cruz County Red Cross programs. For more info, visit

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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