Not everyone can top a blog post with the headline: "A Sperm Whale Stranded on My Doorstep."
Nor can many say they've seen the enormous tail of one of the massive sea creatures protruding from the bed of a giant truck, as it's being delivered across town (top image).
Sarah Dolman, of the U.K.-based conservation group Whale and Dolphin Conservation, awoke last Saturday to find that a young male sperm whale had washed onto the shore in Edinburgh, Scotland, just minutes from her home.
"There was a general feeling of excitement, but also sadness, and several people I spoke to were moved to tears," she wrote.
The rare phenomenon presented opportunity, from a scientific standpoint. But it also posed a dilemma in that the whale carcass weighed 26 tons and could not simply be tossed out in the trash.
Typically, whales are either buried where they are found, or towed to sea. But both scenarios present problems because a rotting carcass can become unearthed or leach scent into the sea, attracting sharks.
A towed whale can—and often times has—washed back ashore with the currents. There are few other alternatives, however.
(Some may recall the 1970 debacle in Oregon, when experts used a half-ton of dynamite to blow up a 45-foot whale, hoping to completely obliterate the carcass. Instead, the explosion delivered a down pouring of stinky blubber onto a crowd of 75 onlookers.)
The main question regarding the Edinburgh sperm whale was its cause of death. There were large head wounds, perhaps indicating a boat propeller strike in deeper water.
Marine experts decided to perform a postmortem examination, but a more suitable location was needed. Hence, the carcass was towed from Portobello Beach in Joppa, along the Firth of Forth, to a deep harbor in Fife.
It was then hoisted by crane into the bed of a truck and driven to the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme in Dunbar.
Dolman, who assisted with the necropsy, stated that only male sperm whales will venture into the frigid Scottish waters to feed on Arctic and sub-Arctic squid, and that the whale's stomach contained "handfuls of squid beaks."
Rarely does a sperm whale strand in Scotland, but when one does experts want to find out the cause and perform other studies. A thorough examination determined that its wounds were not caused by a boat strike, however, leaving the cause of death a mystery still under investigation.
"Detailed postmortem results will take some time, but initial findings were that the whale didn’t die due to any obvious human-induced cause," Dolman wrote. "He had evenly spaced tooth rake marks on the front of his head, suggesting various interactions with whales about his size. Maybe relatives or companions in his bachelor pod?"
Dolman wondered whether the whale and its bachelor pod might have entered the North Sea by mistake. Also, she ventured, "Did the other whales stay with this whale until he stranded and perished before making their onward journey, and do they still think of their young companion?
"These are challenging questions to answer. We have so much more to learn about these deep ocean giants that live in sociable family groups, care for one another, and show cultural learning in their societies."
To be sure, it has been an eventful week for locals and the various agencies involved, who after taking samples were faced with how to dispose of the carcass.
According to the Scotsman, a decision was made to bury the whale in a landfill trench in the resort community of Dunbar. Which came as a surprise to Dunbar council chairman Stephen Bunyan.
"My son told me about it coming to Dunbar and we both wondered why they were bringing it here," he said.
But after giving the matter some thought, Bunyan added: "I've never heard of it happening before, but I suppose it makes perfect sense. What else are you going to do with a whale?"
–Pete Thomas, via GrindTv Outdoor
–Photos: Top image shows sperm whale en route to examination facility, supplied by Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme to the Scotsman newspaper. Second image shows mammal being towed at sea, via PA, for the Scotsman