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Dolphin in Gowanus Canal draws crowds

A dolphin swimming in the Gowanus Canal died on Friday. AP photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Observers of the notoriously polluted Gowanus Canal thought they had seen everything when, in 2007, a minke whale nicknamed “Sludgie” was found swimming in the Gowanus Canal.

On Friday, history repeated itself when the canal had another visitor – a dolphin. And this time, it had to cope with both the dirty water and the frigid cold.

Bundled-up onlookers took cell photos. A news helicopter hovered overhead, and it didn't take long for the dolphin to take Twitter by storm.

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Update: Sadly, after struggling for hours in the murky water, the dolphin died, the New York Times reports.

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The dolphin appeared to be about 7 feet long. It surfaced periodically and managed to shake loose black gunk from its snout in the polluted water.

Rebecca Rogers-Hawson, a volunteer coordinator with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle she had seen the dolphin, and that it seemed to have been tangled up in something. “It was leaving a trail of blood behind it,” she said.

She added that while the dolphin, being a mammal, doesn’t drink the water or swim in it – “it came up for air from time to time” – the type of water in the canal isn’t the healthiest for any animal.

A police spokesperson told the Eagle that its Harbor and Emergency Service Units were on the scene, augmented by volunteers from the Riverhead Foundation. “We are waiting for the next high tide at 7:10 p.m. to see if the dolphin can free itself,” he said. Otherwise, officers were prepared to enter the water in the morning to guide the dolphin out.

"What's this poor dolphin doing here? It's a pity," Linda Mariano, who represents Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus, was quoted as saying by Gothamist. “This is worse than living in a fifth world area. This [the canal] is completely disgusting. And you know who's completely responsible, because they haven't been responsible? The city and the state."

The canal was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010, making it eligible for a massive cleanup effort, but that cleanup is still in the planning and discussion stage.

As for Sludgie the Whale, he died near the Gowanus after swimming around aimlessly for two days back in 2007.

The Gowanus Canal has become cleaner in the past 15 or so years, especially with the reactivation of its flushing tunnel which brings in fresh water from a nearby bay. Indeed, a group known as the Gowanus Oyster Garden Stewards has been raising oysters in the canal bed. But the object is to have the shellfish filter the water, not to raise them for eating.

Perhaps the last word was said by Twitter user Teju Cole (@tejucole). “A dolphin in the Gowanus Canal?” he tweeted. “And they say Brooklyn has no sense of porpoise.”

January 25, 2013 - 4:26pm


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