Beached. Blue. Bloated.

SCIENCE

A dead blue whale washed up on the shore of a small fishing town in Newfoundland last week. A bloated, beached, blubbery bomb of a blue whale. As of Thursday morning, the carcass is still intact, but onlookers are worried that it might soon explode. Literally. (The Atlantic)

Use our resources to learn more about the life and death of blue whales.

These things happen. Beached or dead whales wash up on shore, and their bodies bloat as they decompose. This 18-meter (50-foot) fin whale was stranded on a beach in Courtmacsherry, County Cork, Ireland, in 2009. Yes, that's its tongue bloating out of its gaping maw. Great photo. Photograph by Shane Horan. Photograph by Michael Barera, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 generic license.

These things happen. Beached or dead whales wash up on shore, and their bodies bloat as they decompose. This 18-meter (50-foot) fin whale was stranded on a beach in Courtmacsherry, County Cork, Ireland, in 2009. Yes, that’s its tongue bloating out of its gaping maw. Great photo.
Photograph by Shane Horan. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 generic license.

 

Discussion Ideas

  • The whales that recently washed up in Canadian seaside towns look very, very different than healthy blues in the ocean. Why are the dead whales bloated?
    • Blue whales are mammals, and all mammals bloat when they die. Dead mammals bloat because bacteria and enzymes are busy breaking down the body’s internal organs—stomach, heart, intestines, pancreas, you name it. Breaking them down into what, you ask? Foul-smelling gases such as methane, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide. (Yes, the same greenhouse gases cows famously pass.)
  • What would suggest if you were an elected official in Trout River? If you were the owner of a seaside business, such as a restaurant or retail shop? If you were a marine biologist? If you were a tourist?

3 responses to “Beached. Blue. Bloated.

  1. The scientists after carrying their experiement should allow the authorities in the small town to save the residents by ferrying the dead whale away such that they are not affected by the bad smell.

  2. It was a very interesting and informative article. I had no idea that whales die and inflate and might also explode! Thank you for this interesting information. Looking forward to more details regarding the same.

  3. Wait for high tide and tow it out to sea attaching weights eg sand bags, to then allow it to sink to the bottom of the sea sound like a logical and commonsense approach to resolve this problem.

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