Dean Stramel couldn’t figure out what he was looking at.

On vacation with his wife, Janet, and a pair of couples who are friends they travel with, Stramel noticed something extremely large in the distance of the bay area north of San Francisco on Thursday.

From where they were at at the rental property in Bolinas, Calif., there was no way to tell for sure what the object was. All afternoon, they watched as it appeared to get closer.

“I said, ‘What’s that?’ ” said Stramel, from Hays. “It was a great big blob. We watched that thing all afternoon. I asked one of the locals what it was, and someone said, ‘I don’t know. We’ve never seen anything like it.’ ”

Finally, a lady who had taken a look at the mammoth object through a spotting scope identified it. She knocked on the door of where the Stramels and their friends were staying to give them the answer.

“It’s a dead whale,” she told them.

Sure enough, a blue whale was floating in the bay. As the day progressed, the whale floated around the area. Sometime overnight, the tide brought the mammal over a reef and onto Agate Beach in Bolinas.

On Friday morning, the Stramels were two of the first people on the beach to witness the gigantic female, later measured at 79 feet and identified was a sub-adult. Local media began to pick up on the whale being on shore as Dean Stramel said a news helicopter flew overhead.

“We went up and touched it,” Dean said. “It feels like the side of a truck tire. It was rubbery and firm. It gave just a little bit.”

According to officials from the Marine Mammal Center in California the whale likely died after being hit by a ship. A story from the San Francisco Chronicle, said, “A team of 25 scientists and volunteers gathered (Saturday) to perform a necropsy in order to determine how it died.” The whale suffered injuries from hemorrhaged and necrotic muscle, and 10 ribs were broken in multiple places. Its spine was badly fractured, and the skull showed signs of trauma.

Dean Stramel said the experience of seeing the blue whale Thursday and Friday was certainly unlike anything they’ve seen before.

“It’s just amazing,” Dean said. “You read about this kind of stuff. Whoever gets to see a dead whale, let alone a blue whale?

“We were there. Out of all the beaches in the world and all the days of the year, we were there that day. I was the first (of the group to see it). … As it got closer, it was just this big round blob, like a balloon.”