Stonington — Barbara Albro was one of dozens of interested onlookers Monday who walked to the James Street beach on Lords Point to see what all the commotion was about.
"I noticed a blob just floating in the Sound, but I couldn't tell what it was," Albro said. "Then I heard it was a whale so I had to come and look. It has caused quite a bit of excitement, but not so much for the whale."
A steady stream of 40 or so people made its way along the narrow beach to see the 20-foot female humpback whale, which experts say appears to have died about a week ago.
It was apparently brought to the shore from Fishers Island Sound by the tides.
Mike Osborn, the director of mammals and birds at the Mystic Aquarium, said he couldn't remember the last time a whale washed up on a Connecticut shore. He said it was more common in the waters of Rhode Island.
"We are hoping to take as many viable samples as we can and send them off to researchers so we can learn as much from this whale," Osborn said.
Erin Merz, manager of media and public relations at the Sea Research Foundation, said just before the 1 p.m. high tide the whale was towed about 20 feet out and tied to a pole so that it wouldn't be taken away by tides.
This morning, aquarium staff will return and take some samples from the whale, which will then be towed about 10 miles offshore.
The aquarium was unable to find a location to perform a necropsy, Merz said, and because it had been dead for about a week it was unlikely the necropsy would have provided valuable information.
Humpback whales, which are known for their magical songs, are found near coastlines, feeding on tiny shrimp-like krill, plankton and small fish, according to National Geographic's website. They can weigh as much as 40 tons and are an endangered species.
The whale was such an attraction Monday morning that it caused a bit of a traffic jam on Lindberg Avenue and even forced cars on Oak Street to go in reverse to get out of the area.
The crowd of children and adults stood in amazement as they looked at the large creature. Some just shook their heads as they approached the carcass while others simply said, "Wow!"
At times, the group had to shift where they were standing on the beach as the wind spread the scent of decay. The whale was floating on its back. It appeared bloated with its skin starting to peel.
"I've lived here practically all my life," said Michele Johnston. "I've never seen anything like this. I had to see it for myself. It's actually pretty sad."
The Stonington Shellfish Commission as a precaution temporarily closed the Outer Quiambaug Cove to shellfishing.