Subject: What does one do with a dead whale?

Johan Steyn (
Mon, 19 Aug 1996 08:01:58 +0000

On 28 July 1996 an adult Southern Right Whale washed up on the rocks
at Scarborough near Cape Town, South Africa. She had died previously
at sea - possibly by being struck by a ship? 

Now, for the first time we have been confronted with the question
about what does one do with a dead whale? The local authorities decided that it
would cost too much to remove it and that nature should take its
course. It will take a good many months for such a large creature to
decay, causing a huge stink and possible health risk in the interim.
Attempts have been made to inject substances to hasten the process of
decay, but it was found that penetrating the body through the tough
skin is difficult, and besides, it would take a few drums full to do
the job. Other suggestions were to blow it up, thereby speeding up the
process of decay and only having to put up with parts washing up on
the beach for a short time. Another suggestion was to set it alight as
the large amount of blubber would ignite and burn quite easily once it
gets going.

All these are speculations and no-one seems to know what would be the
best method, since having to deal with a dead whale near a residential
area is not a common occurrence. Do you know of anyone who has faced a
similar problem in the past? What did they do to solve it? Do you
perhaps have any other solutions/ideas?

Johan Steyn

Johan Steyn
Transwitch Services
Cape Town
Tel: (021) 686-1440