My first day in Trout River, Newfoundland: ROM biologists arrive, town is curious

Posted: May 7, 2014 - 09:04 , by Jacqueline Waters
Categories: 
Nature, Biodiversity, Natural History, Research | Comments (5) | Comment
A blue whale carcass lies upside down in the water near a rocky shoreline.
As I stare out my window I can see the sunlight’s reflection on the mountains and after a busy day I am finally getting the chance to reflect on how fortunate I am to be here. This is the opportunity I had been waiting for since my graduation from the Environmental Visual Communications program this past fall, and today, my first day in Trout River, NL, surpassed all expectations. I am excited to be working documenting the biologists from Royal Ontario Museum who will help recover at least two blue whales that washed ashore near here.
 
I got my first glimpse of the first of the blue whales, all 23m (76.5 ft) of it at around noon today. It is heavily deflated and the seagulls have begun to pick at the decaying bits underneath the body. Large chunks have been carved out of the sides, apparently to feed some local huskies, and the taste of what can only be described as a bitter sourness stink is coming from a large wound on the side. Bare cartilage and bone are showing from where someone has managed to chop one off one of the flippers. I can’t help but think that this beautiful animal has seen better days and I am proud to be representing the scientific community in being part of taking the whale to its new home at the Royal Ontario Museum. There its skeleton will be available for valuable research to enhance our understanding of these magnificent animals and hopefully aid in their conservation in the North Atlantic Ocean.

A gull hovers near where a hole has been carved in the side of the whale carcass

A close up shot of the stump where the animals right flipper has been sawed off.

A photo showing the advancing state of decomposition along the whale's submerged side

After lunch I stayed on the boardwalk to gather footage while the rest of the team headed out to visit another beached whale at Rocky Harbour. As the hours passed, the boardwalk became crowded with locals, who had come to learn about how the ROM scientists would complete the task at hand.  Underdressed for the weather, with cameras and equipment strung around me, I stand out here almost as much as the whale does. To my delight people here could not be friendlier and what could have been a long cold wait, turned into a lovely afternoon. It’s an understatement to say these people are kind, giving, and inclusive. I was instantly accepted into huddles of conversation surrounding this truly enormous animal that washed up on their shores nearly a month ago. I couldn’t have been more grateful to meet a young lady who literally gave me the clothes off her back and made a run to her grandmother’s house to help keep me from catching pneumonia. I want to give a big thank you to the people of Trout River for making my first day one to remember, this town and its people are truly something special. 

ROM team taking measurements in the morning, recording valuable information about this endangered animal. | Image by Jacqueline Waters

Where is the whale now you ask? Well, as I finish writing this Blog post, it’s still in the same spot it was this morning, but the plan is to tow the carcass a little up the coast to a more suitable site for the ROM team to do their work. As to be expected the feat of moving this enormous animal took more time then planned. Stay tuned and follow us @ROMBiodiversity to find out when the whale will be on the move. And follow along as we share video of the process, interviews with the team, and conversations with the people of the area.

TODAY: Google + Hangout on Air with the team in Trout River, 1pm EST 

A man stands near the whale carcass holding a net.

Comments

Comment by Gordon Samson

Fantastic pictures. I am really glad that someone like yourselves have realized the value and potential of such a magnificent creature. I have not seen the likes since the dinosaurs were uncovered and assembled. Congratulations!

Comment by Brandie House

So happy to have made your stay so much better! Happy to help you out! Thanks for the wonderful post!

Comment by Randy Graupner

Is it possible that the 'discards' of blubber and tissue could be put out for hungry polar bears and other animals that are struggling with lack of food...or just dumped back into the sea for the 'buffet of buffets' thereof?

Comment by Corina Hartley

Thank you for this blog! Looking forward to more entries. The loss of these majestic, gentle giants is tragic and heartbreaking. I am grateful to the ROM for taking this opportunity; no doubt, a huge financial undertaking.