Cetaceans don't explode very often but when they do, they make a whale of a mess. An 81-foot-long carcass of a Blue Whale that washed ashore in Trout River, Newfoundland is the latest ticking time bomb to have folks holding their breaths... and their noses. Here's what can we expect when Moby Dick meets his end with a bang and not a whimper.
1) Oregon, 1970
While beached deceased whales have been explosively decomposing since these majestic marine mammals first evolved, the phenomenon only recently entered the realm of modern pop (sorry) culture. We can even slap a date on it: November 12th, 1970.
The 45-foot (14m) long, 8-ton (7,300kg) sperm whale that washed up near the town of Florence on Oregon's Pacific coast already reeked; obliterating it with 20 cases of TNT (when a mere 20 sticks would have sufficed) was the obvious solution. See what happened here. (exploding whale image via NPR)
2) Denmark, 1991
Assiduously assisted or not, an exploding whale is nothing to sniff at, which is why attempts are often made to reduce the danger of a sudden high-pressure gas release by encouraging smaller, less violent eruptions. As can be seen here, nature doesn't always follow mankind's best-laid plans.
This particular beached whale washed ashore in Denmark sometime in 1991, and the operation carried out to gently remedy the late creature's bloated state was anything but gentle. (exploding whale image via ScienceBlogs)
3) Taiwan, 2004
Word to prospective whale salvagers: when transporting an expired and expanding cetacean, seek out a route that avoids populated areas such as busy downtown neighborhoods during business hours. Why, you ask? Well, this video explains rather graphically why doing so takes (and gives) plenty of guts.
"What a stinking mess," stated a witness to the January 26th, 2004 incident that took place in Tainan City, Taiwan. "This blood and other stuff that blew out on the road is disgusting, and the smell is really awful." And you thought navigating downtown traffic in YOUR town was tough! (exploding whale image via Taiwan's Exploding Whale Website)
4) Bonza Bay, South Africa, 2004
late September of 2004 at Bonza Bay, in South Africa's Eastern Cape
province, a 20-ton Humpback whale had fatally beached itself and
authorities deemed its presence to be a health hazard.
multiple failed attempts to drag the carcass into deeper waters offshore
(the rope kept breaking), it was finally brought to deep water where
explosive charges were detonated, causing the remains to sink out of
sight (and scent) beneath the waves. (exploding whale image via SABC News)
5) Western Australia, 2010
We've seen that an exploding whale, regardless of how it explodes, is no picnic for anyone concerned. One wonders, therefore, why we supposedly civilized human beings are quick to whip out the explosives... heck, you'd at least think they'd wait until the critter kicked the chum-bucket!
Not so... in late August of 2010, a 9.5-metre (31-ft.) long Humpback whale became stranded on a sandbar just off the coast of Albany in Western Australia. Officials of the Department of Environment and Conservation deemed that the whale should be killed "humanely", and on September 2nd an explosive charge was detonated after being attached to the dying creature. (exploding whale image via ABC News Australia)
6) Ameland, The Netherlands, 2013
One of these Dutch things smells not like the others: Gouda cheese, colorful tulips and a beached whale exploding in real-time slow motion. The latter creepy and Cthul'hu-esque scene unfolded on a bright sunny day on the beach of Ameland, where a disoriented Sperm whale had washed ashore and passed away.
The delicate process of defusing, as it were, the beached behemoth took roughly a week and was not without its memorable moments. As can be seen in this video, the punctured Physeter Macrocephalus spewed a quantity of accumulated gas accompanied by assorted viscera and tissues weirdly waving about like laundry in a stiff breeze. (exploding whale image via MSN.nz)
7) Faroe Islands, 2013
Even the most delicate probing by experienced whale-pokers can backfire most egregiously, as a worker at Vio Air in the Faroe Islands found out to his dismay on November 26th, 2013. While attempting to deflate an alarmingly expanded Sperm whale, the presciently outfitted staffer wielded his staff a might too carelessly.
The resulting burst of decomposing "whale stuff" nearly knocked the poor fellow into harpoon heaven, as this video recorded by the Faroese Broadcasting Corporation graphically illustrates - be advised, it may be safe for work but it's definitely not safe for lunch. (exploding whale image via KVF)
8) Montevideo, Uruguay, 2014
Last but not least, we learn that deceased whales really are ticking time bombs and like extremely oversized bottles of nitroglycerine, can go off with the slightest impetus. Not that dropping a 25-ton Sperm whale onto a flatbed truck could be considered "slight" as impeti go, but you get the gist of it.
When the whale washed up on Montevido, Uruguay's previously gorgeous Carrasco Beach in early January of 2014, local authorities knew they had to act fast - January is mid-summer in South America. Employing a heavy-duty crane and a makeshift sling, workers managed to lift the cetacean's carcass over the truck and proceeded to lower it. That's when one of the straps snapped, dropping the bloated beast onto the flatbed. If you can't picture the scene, watch it here instead. (exploding whale image via Daily Star)
Now here's a blown-up whale everyone can appreciate, thanks to Peter Lynn Kites of New Zealand. Dubbed “Mel” after Moby Dick author Herman Melville, the spectacular 100 foot long nylon kite might be bulging with gas but in this case at least, that's a very good thing indeed! (exploding whale image at top via BBC News and above via This Is Why I'm Broke)