Dispose of dead whales quickly: O’Brien

Frank Gale
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A sperm whale washed up on the beach in Marche’s Point.

Stephenville Mayor Tom O’Brien’s advice to communities such as Cape St. George, which had a dead sperm whale wash ashore at Marche’s Point beach Wednesday, is to get the animal disposed of as quickly as possible.

Several years ago, O’Brien was on a local committee that entertained the idea of having the skeleton of a buried blue whale erected for display.

That whale, which was approximately 80 feet in length, had beached in the mid-1970s and was buried next to where it washed up.

In 1991, a decision was made to excavate and try and retrieve the skeleton, but O’Brien said the carcass was still in a state of decay. At the time, he said the committee was suprised at how little the whale had decayed considering the length of time.

The mayor had built his house near the location in 1990 shortly before that excavation took place. Although there was just a small section unearthed, which was quickly covered back up, O’Brien said there was an “ungodly” smell that lingered for days.

When asked whether he would consider reviving the project of retrieving the skeleton, O’Brien said that would not happen.

“People in the neighbourhood threatened that if we tried that again, they would run us out of town,” O’Brien said.

He said that burying the large mammal proved to be a good way of disposing of it. He estimated there is at least eight feet of sandy soil on top of the carcass.

O’Brien noted the town was fortunate that where the animal beached was suitable for digging, but cautioned it could be a major chore to bury the whale if the conditions in the location are not right. He said it could mean the animal would have to be cut up into sections and towed away.

“My advice to Cape St. George would be to get it out of there somehow,” O’Brien said. “If it’s left, there will be a major smell and it will be torture for anyone living close to it.”

Geographic location: Stephenville

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