Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Goodbye Rotten Whale Carcass, We Hardly Knew Ye.

I was a little bummed to find only the skull minus the jaw and the big fleshy oily parts of the head left by the time I got there. I wanted the full rotting whale experience, not this Disney-fied version that I stumbled upon. The rest of the story, as taken from the Bangor Daily News can be found in the comments.

Posted for my excited coworkers who's very first comment to me as soon as I walked into work this morning was "Did you get photos of the dead whale and is it going to be on your blog?"


  1. 40-ton carcass dragged to Trenton; museum hopes to display skeleton
    Wednesday, June 07, 2006 - Bangor Daily News << Back

    TRENTON - The makeshift crew sharpened their flensing knives Tuesday afternoon, slathered on sunblock, and stepped into their high boots and bright orange oilskins.

    They were ready to butcher a whale.

    It was a hazy day, and the usual fresh sea breeze found at the public landing near the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport had been replaced by an overpowering stench that came from the white, spongy carcass of an 80,000-pound male sperm whale.

    The 46-foot-long whale, which experts estimate has been dead for a month, was spotted last week drifting into the Gulf of Maine. Though the deep-diving sperm whales travel widely around the world, they tend to avoid coastal regions, and Maine is not among their usual stomping grounds. That makes this whale a rare catch, according to scientists.

    "We put out the word that if it did come anyone's way, we would love it as a specimen," said Toby Stephenson, curator of the Bar Harbor Whale Museum.

    Stephenson and other whale researchers from the College of the Atlantic were notified by the Department of Marine Resources that the whale was off Outer Heron Island, near Boothbay Harbor. The scientists motored down the coast in a whale watching boat, had a diver hook a length of rope around the leviathan's jaw and slowly towed it home. Back in Bar Harbor, the carcass was attached to COA's mooring and then was brought to the public landing for butchering.

    The whale was in rough shape. Minus its dark gray skin and with a rib hanging loose, it looked more like the ghost of Moby-Dick than the literary scourge of the high seas. Its namesake oil trickled from the carcass and pooled into the rivulets of fresh water that ran into the bay.

    That oil is one reason DMR officials, concerned about a potential threat to nearby commercial mussel beds in Eastern Bay, required that the scientists comply with environmental safety procedures.

    Members of the Trenton Volunteer Fire Department helped place oil-absorbing pads in the water, and contractors Doug Gott & Sons brought an excavator to pull the whale up over the high-water mark, according to Mark King of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

    Nevertheless, the DMR has called for closing the boat ramp for a week because of water-quality concerns, King said.

    About 20 students, high school interns, college staff and others worked as fast as possible to cut away the flesh and save the whale's skeleton.

    "It's dead, very dead," said several of the college students as they prepared to slice into the putrid blubber.

    By late afternoon, the crew had extracted the skeleton and readied the tons of flesh to be composted at a site in Tremont, King said.

    According to researchers, the whale's decaying exterior may hide useful information. Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales, and the deepest-diving. They can plunge up to two miles into the ocean in the quest for their primary prey, the giant squid. The oil produced in the whale's spermaceti organ, located in its massive head, plays a mysterious role for the mammal. The crew hopes to salvage some of the once valuable oil for research and museum purposes.

    "No one really knows what it does," said Sean Todd, a faculty member and senior scientist at Allied Whale, COA's marine mammal research group.

    One hypothesis is that the oil may help the whale remain buoyant during its deep dives, student Kaitlin Palmer said.

    The oil's former importance to humans is clear enough, however. It's an exceptional lubricant and was in such high demand for 19th century industrial processes that sperm whales were hunted to the point of rarity.

    "It's classic 'Moby-Dick' stuff," Todd said.

    But the giant whale, which has a life span of at least 60 years and perhaps much longer, is hunted no more and now is on the rebound, the scientists said.

    This whale likely was 20 to 30 years old and died from unknown causes, the researchers said. Entanglements with fishing line, a common cause of death in other whale species, are rare for the sperm whale, but they have been known to die after colliding with ships.

    A group of third-graders from Calvary Chapel Christian School in Orrington had heard about the whale and made an impromptu field trip to check it out. They have studied whales for the last month, and were scheduled to take a whale-watching trip Thursday that has been canceled because of expected bad weather.

    "It's very rare to see the toothed whale, which is why we were excited to see it," teacher Linda Goodness said.

    Orianna Green, 8, of Brewer was curious about the sperm whale, but still ready to go whale watching.

    "I think it's exciting to see a dead whale," she said. "I would like to see a not-dead one."

  2. What's left in your town for fun? Motel...gone, Mini golf...gone, whale carcass...gone. What are you going to do with yourself of an evening now, Judy?

  3. "We hardly knew ye."

    Did we want to? Eeeeew!

    Poor whale...

    P.S. - vs - flmthoww - which is what you could use to dispose of Mr. Whale - a flmthowwer.

  4. wow...
    i have not seen a whale of dolphin before


  5. "Full rotting whale experience" :) he-he!
    Interesting information... I read the whole story. Though a rotting whale would seem unsightly to me, I believe this is the closest most of us can get to a big sperm whale!