What officials are calling a short-beaked common dolphin found himself trapped after accidently wandering into a Brooklyn, New York canal on Friday.
The dolphin was first spotted around 9:30 a.m. EST in the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal. According to the New York Times, the dolphin was near the Union Street bridge and appeared to be having difficulty swimming in the narrow canal. Blood could be seen on the animal's dorsal fin as it bobbed up and down in the sludge filled waters of the canal.
Officials with the New York Police Department contacted members of the Riverhead Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program. The foundation's director, Rob DiGiovanni, told CNN:
"Because there is no shoreline or easy way to get to the dolphin, investigators will only monitor it. It's very uncommon for a dolphin or any marine animal to be in the Gowanus, but it's happened before."
Rescuers decided to wait and see if the dolphin could find its way out of the canal on its own during the high tide. If not, they planned to launch a rescue effort to remove the animal on Saturday. DiGiovanni told USA Today:
"If the animal comes on a beach or something, we can definitely respond to it. But in this case here, when the animal is free swimming, the procedure is to monitor it for another tide cycle or two and see if moves back out again."
Onlookers were worried about the dolphin remaining in the polluted waters, with one bystander telling New York Magazine:
"It's disgusting. Hopefully we can get it out before it gets worse."
The Gowanus Canal is considered one of the most polluted waterways in the country, becoming a dumping ground for sewage spill-off and industrial waste. The Environmental Protection Agency had called the canal "one of the nation's most extensively contaminated water bodies", addeding it to their list of Superfund priorities in 2010.
According to a CBS report, the dolphin appeared to become stuck between a rock and support pillar around 5:30 p.m. EST. It began to struggle and reportedly struck its head on the pillar. Almost immediately after striking its head, the animal stopped moving and floated motionless on the surface.
Aaron Stewart-Ahn, a bystander who was watching the saga unfold, posted a video of a man comforting the dolphin. He describes what he captured on film by saying:
"On January 25 2013 a common Atlantic dolphin was trapped in the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, a federal Superfund site that is one of the most polluted waterways in the entire United States. Decisions were made by NYPD & marine mammal rescue not to attempt a rescue of the animal but to wait and observe. A few hours later a man on a beat up bicycle showed up and decided to comfort the dolphin. Without saying a word he entered the water. The dolphin was extremely affectionate and responded to his touch. This lasted for quite awhile.
After awhile the man came out of the water and went home to have a shower, he said. The dolphin then headed up the canal and finally cleared the floats from the oil facility that had kept him penned in all day. But then he drifted to a group of onlookers where he stayed all evening before dying around 6pm, as snow fell."