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Mystery deepens as second dead whale washes up on Virginia coast in less than 2 days

Less than a day after a dead humpback whale was found rolling in the surf of Virginia Beach, a second dead whale washed up down the shore.

Scientists are working to figure out how they died.

A male juvenile humpback first landed on the shore of Virginia Beach on March 3, according to Kristina Scott with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.

The aquarium’s stranding response team began monitoring the whale on March 2, the day before it washed ashore, when it was spotted floating dead off the coast, Scott told McClatchy News in a phone interview.

The current eventually pushed the animal to shore, and the stranding team pulled the humpback out of the water to conduct a necropsy, Scott said.

Crowds gathered to look at the massive animal lying in the sand.

“I’ve been here my whole life and I’ve never seen it up this close,” Giada Cavaliere, a Virginia Beach resident, told WVEC.

Scientists are aiming to determine the cause of death, but Scott said there didn’t appear to be clear signs of trauma. People have been speculating how the whale died.

“It’s a majestic animal, so a lot of people find interest in it naturally,” Scott said. “It attracts people’s attention.”

As scientists were responding to the beached whale, they were keeping an eye on another whale that died off the coast but hadn’t yet washed ashore.

One person who captured the dead whale floating in the water wrote on Facebook it was a “sad day today.”

“I am always in awe of these magnificent animals so it was heartbreaking to see this beautiful whale like this,” Brian Lockwood wrote.

On March 4, Scott confirmed the second animal had beached at False Cape State Park, roughly 20 miles south of where the first whale came ashore.

Researchers are working to confirm the species of the second whale that washed up.

Humpback whales reach sexual maturity between 4 and 10 years of age, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Researchers were able to determine the young male that washed up first had not yet reached sexual maturity.

Humpback whales can weigh up to 40 tons and reach 60 feet in length, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Until the necropsies are completed, scientists won’t be able to say for sure what caused the animals’ deaths.

Virginia Beach is on the southeast coast of the state along the border of North Carolina.

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