“Whale graffiti artists” took their pastime to a new canvas: a dead whale that washed up on the shore of New Jersey last week. The 15-foot whale’s underbelly was tagged with blue spray-paint along its entire body. The vandals “added insult to injury for the dead Minke whale,” reports the Wall Street Journal on May 2.
The indignity appeared to be Greek letters, scrawling out “Tau Epsilon Phi,” a fraternity that has chapters at several area schools, followed by what appeared to be the number “94.” Some thought that the tagging was initially gang related, but it appears the vandals were current or former members of the fraternity. Tau Epsilon Phi has active chapters at three nearby universities, and is headquartered in Voorhees, N.J.
According to the Huffington Post, when media reached out to the fraternity, spokesperson Jesse Cohen said there is no confirmation from the schools that Tau Epsilon Phi members were involved. Cohen did say that the fraternity considers the whale graffiti a “reprehensible act.” The frat house is cooperating with Atlantic City Police investigators, Cohen said.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center from Brigantine, N.J. estimated that the whale had been dead for days when it was discovered Thursday morning below Atlantic City’s Central Pier. The whale was found after a strong storm. It had washed up with a dead dolphin, found at a beach on Indiana Avenue about a half dozen blocks away.
There were no signs of trauma on the animals, and the cause of death is unknown. A state pathologist was brought in and will attempt to determine why the whale died. Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, said the pathologist will “collect samples and determine a cause of death,” before the whale and dolphin are buried on the beach.
The plan to bury the whale so close to the Boardwalk was a concern for some nearby shop owners, reports the Press of Atlantic City. Annoyed business owners are concerned about the potential stink that may arise from the rotting carcass. “Mary Mitchell, who owns a psychic shop on the 1700 block of the Boardwalk, said she and her neighbors were worried that the decomposing whale would smell during the summer,” writes the Press.