Scientists are trying to figure out how a beaked whale usually confined to deep water washed up on the shore Friday in Plymouth, Mass. Swimmers and sunbathers on Jones Beach in Plymouth, Mass. were joined Friday by an unexpected guest: a rarely-seen beaked whale. The 17-foot-long female whale weighing almost a ton had died by the time it washed up on the beach. The New England Aquarium said it believes the animal was a Sowerby’s beaked whale, a species of deep-water whale that inhabits northern waters and virtually never approaches the shore.

The aquarium said in a statement Saturday that beaked whales are “so rarely seen that New England Aquarium biologists have been conferring to determine the exact species,” according to the Boston Globe. The aquarium has not seen a beaked whale in close to a decade, the statement said. Usually, sightings of Sowerby’s beaked whales are limited to fishermen who find the whales caught in their nets. “It’s a glimpse into a habitat that’s not so far away, but it’s still a world away,” aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse told the Boston Herald of the sighting. “They live in a world of their own.” MORE