The sun had yet to rise. A strong breeze from the Gulf of Mexico cooled the otherwise warm and muggy Indian Shores beach. The surf was choppy Friday morning as Bonnie Charity began her daily walk, unlike some days when it’s still and smooth as glass.

It was just after 6 a.m. She was picking up trash along the beach as does every morning. After dragging a gas can from the surf to a trash can, she headed back to the water to drag up what she thought was a forlorn palm frond.

That’s when she found the whale.

“When I saw it, I thought it was just a big huge palm frond in the water and I was going to drag it up,” Charity said. “I couldn’t tell what it was until I got right up in it.” - Daniel Figueroa IV, Times staff writer