Posted: September 3, 2019
What is that smell?!?! It’s . . . drumroll . . . rotting whale!
Scientists and volunteers on the U.S. West Coast have a huge, stinky problem. At least 81 gray whale corpses have washed ashore in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska since January 1. What can they do with the decaying carcasses? Almost every out-of-the-way public beach is already being used for a whale to decay on. The officials cry for help to people who live on the coast: “Can we borrow your private beaches?” they ask. “These ocean giants need places to rot in peace.”
Believe it or not, some beach owners say, “Sure!” They’re agreeing to host dead creatures bigger than school buses!
A Washington state couple received their whale carcass in June. They thought watching the whale decompose would be a good way to learn about science. But they asked their neighbors first. That was probably a good idea since decomposing whales smell so bad! Volunteers attached a rope to the dead whale’s tail. They used a motorboat to tow it three miles along the coast to the couple’s beach. They anchored it to tree stumps. For whale corpse “hosts,” the whale stench hung around for about a month. Meanwhile, the couple used huge amounts of the mineral lime to help the corpse decompose.
Do NOT Try This!
In 1970, people in Oregon learned how not to dispose of a whale carcass. Have you seen the famous video that captures the disaster?
Back then, a whale had not washed up in Oregon for a long time. At first, people enjoyed gawking at the unusual sight. But after three days, the odor took over. People wanted to get rid of the whale. But how? Should they bury it? No. Sea waves would likely uncover it again. Besides, they’d have to cut it up first, and nobody wanted that job. So they got another idea: Blow up the sperm whale with dynamite.
The Oregonians hoped the dynamite would make the 45-foot whale disintegrate into tiny pieces. They hoped seagulls would eat whatever remained.
But they hoped wrong. The blast sent chunks of burning, rotting blubber raining down on spectators. Cars in a nearby parking lot were crushed by blobs of stinking flesh. And the seagulls? The blast scared them away. Or maybe it was the smell!