A dolphin that swam into an unlikely spot Friday—Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal—later died, authorities said.
As onlookers gaped at the surprising sight, the NYPD Harbor and Emergency Service Units and marine-mammal experts from Long Island’s Riverhead Foundation observed the creature for several hours near Union and Nevins streets.
Officials had planned to wait until high tide at 7:10 p.m. to see if the dolphin could free itself or proceed with a rescue when the tide receded Saturday morning. But the dolphin died early Friday evening, said Julika Wocial, the Riverhead Foundation’s rescue program supervisor. Its body will be removed likely on Saturday, and an examination will be performed by the Foundation to determine the cause of death. The creature appeared to be a common dolphin of adult age and about 6 to 7 feet long, Ms. Wocial said.
It was unclear whether the animal had been sick. But Ms. Wocial said the animal had been exhibiting “concerning behavior.”
“Common dolphins are usually seen in larger groups,” Ms. Wocial said. “This animal is by itself, and it is in the area where we normally wouldn’t see them.”
For much of Friday afternoon, the dolphin remained at the western edge of the canal near Bond Street, as officials weighed the risks of taking action, Ms. Wocial said.
Every few seconds, the creature’s head or dorsal fin would poke through the murky waters, creating ripples and drawing murmurs from onlookers, who stood in the cold with cameras.
Once a major transportation route, the canal was designated a Superfund cleanup site in 2010 by the Environmental Protection Agency, which called it “one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies.”
Some observers lamented that officials hadn’t rescued the animal and were sad about its death.
“It’s not clean water there,” said Linda Mariano, the 69-year-old co-founder of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, a group that supports the area’s Superfund status. “It’s sad….I don’t know why it wasn’t smart enough to get out of there.”
Another creature found its way to the Gowanus Canal back in 2007, also with an unhappy ending. A 12-foot minke whale—nicknamed “Sludgie” because it appeared to be covered in an oily substance—spent two days swimming near the canal’s mouth then but died before rescuers could coax it to safety.