Rotting Whale Might Not Explode After All

It's deflating, and museum says it will take it away

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted May 2, 2014 7:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – Residents of a Newfoundland town can breathe a sigh of relief: It looks like the carcass of a blue whale that washed up on the shores of Trout River might not explode after all. Officials feared it would, as gases swelled the creature's 81-foot-long body, but the whale has since deflated a bit, the town clerk tells the BBC. Now the town just needs to get rid of the 60-ton carcass—there had been, as one official noted earlier this week, some concern "about the smell from this" as warmer temperatures arrived. Fortunately, CTV reports, the Royal Ontario Museum has agreed to help, and will send a 10-person team next week to cut away the skin, blubber, and muscles, which will be dumped, and then take apart the skeleton, which will be transported to Ontario on an 18-wheeler.

What does the museum get out of the two-week operation, which will cost tens of thousands of dollars? Quite a bit, says one official: The endangered blue whale is the world's largest animal, and though no one is cheering the death, "this is an incredible opportunity to see one and to work with one," he says, though "it's a lot of very smelly work." The museum will also handle another blue whale carcass that washed up elsewhere in Newfoundland; both whales, along with seven others, are believed to have been crushed in thick sea ice last month. (That's 5% of the estimated population in the Northwest Atlantic, CBC notes.) Tissue samples and skeletons will be studied, and one of the skeletons may eventually be displayed—though scientists won't get all the parts; the Western Star reported earlier this week that someone illegally sawed off one of the whale's flippers. (Some whale carcasses have been known to explode—in one recent case, all over a biologist.)

This image provided by NTV News via The Canadian Press shows a rotting blue whale carcass sitting on the shore in Trout River, Canada, Sunday, April 27, 2014.   (AP Photo/NTV News via The Canadian Press, Don Bradshaw)
This image provided by NTV News via The Canadian Press shows a rotting blue whale carcass sitting on the shore in Trout River, Canada, Sunday, April 27, 2014.   (AP Photo/NTV News via The Canadian Press, Don Bradshaw)
This image provided by NTV News via The Canadian Press shows a rotting blue whale carcass sitting on the shore in Trout River, Canada, Sunday, April 27, 2014.   (AP Photo/NTV News via The Canadian Press, Don Bradshaw)
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There's nothing that smells worse than a dead whale. They don't smell good to begin with and these have been dead awhile. - Mark Engstrom, deputy director of collections and research for the
Royal Ontario Museum

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