The finback whale that has traveled the currents of the Boston and the North Shore to rest, post-Superstorm Sandy, on Cape Hedge beach, was taken apart by a team of hearty souls armed with butcher knives and a whetstone this morning. It looked like bloody hard work, hacking away gigantic pieces of flesh and whale muscle from gigantic bones. Like butchering a school bus. Most of the people wielding the knives looked suitably attired with commercial rain gear covering all the parts that mattered, but a few looked like they had drifted over from the North Shore Mall with only sweatpants — sweatpants! — standing between their own flesh and that of the whale. Thousands of pounds of rotting whale flesh. I’m just guessing that those sweatpants, having absorbed dead whale moisture, are going straight into the trash can just off the beach, as it would be better to ride home naked than wearing sweatpants saturated with the smell of long-dead marine life.
The smell was epic when you were downwind, and on the car ride on the way home the air began to fill with an aroma suspiciously similar to that of our dead friend. It turns out that my 3-year-old managed to step in an infinitestimal string of whale flesh residue. His little shoes will probably be a casualty of the day along with the whale team members’ sweatpants.
It was an amazing sight and hats off to the team from Mass Wildlife and the New England Aquarium and the guy at the Rockport DPW who handled the backhoe with the delicacy of a surgeon. It was a rare privilege to see, here in New England and in this high-tech age, people on the beach breaking down a whale by hand, just like our ancestors. But in this case the whale died of natural causes and even better, he will live on in perpetuity, recreated piece by piece for display in a museum. Experiences like this remind me that living here on Cape Ann is a rare sort of gift.
The spinal cord
Whale butchering as a Family Field Trip! The 6-year-old is grossed out. The 3-year-old seems confused. The baby (not shown) just seems bored.
Jawbones of the whale: the first pieces of the skeleton loaded into the trailer.
kim diebboll forwards-
here’s a few photos of the whale now that he’s resting on cape hedge beach. he’s looking rather sad and pretty beat up. the guts which i saw over by pebble beach yesterday, were cleaned up by the town today, so they are gone now.
i guess this is his last day, as i hear he is being removed tomorrow.
thanks so much for your great blog. i always enjoy reading it.
i went for my morning walk today to see what happened after sandy hit last night. i smelled something foul and came across parts of the whale washed ashore on the road which runs along pebble beach in rockport. i imagine parts may be showing up elsewhere as it is obviously now not a whole whale.
i thought other readers would be interested.
keep your eyes open!
i don’t know if this is the best way to share photos? please let me know if there is another way.
thanks, kim diebboll
The Finback whale, formely known as the Rockport Whale, aka Finny, aka Stinky, is no more. Or at least he isn’t the Rockport Whale anymore. As of 11:35 PM last night Finny started heading out and was well clear of his rocky beach resting spot by midnight. He was last seen floating high in the water (well, high for a large rolling bag of whale innards), heading WNW at about 1.5 knots pushed by the prevailing winds of Hurricane Sandy from the ESE . The current will also head west for almost two hours after high tide (midnight), so there is nothing stopping Finny from becoming the Gloucester Whale.
The waves are pretty decent size scouring the back side of Cape Ann so depending how Finny surfs he could be on Good Harbor Beach by morning. But I doubt it. He either gets hung up on the beach in front of the Cape Ann Motor Inn or he heads out to sea to be seen no more because the waves busted him apart.
So Sandy did a good deed during her lively visit to Cape Ann. She didn’t clear away too many leaves but she did remove twelve tons of stinky whale.
If you click on the photo to embiggen then click one more time you can see that Rubber Duck is perched on the whale. She is sitting in the same spot as the previous photo.
The Finback is about 85 Rubber Ducks long.
Homie and half a dozen of his pals were working on this piece. Maybe some jaw with baleen attached.Only a guess that there might be 5 or 6 tons of whale. In a few weeks it might be dangerous to be downhill of the body because when she pops there may be quite a landslide of whale innards. Also why I am not saying exactly where it is. It’s cute and all but better left to the winter storms. Another unit of measure is on a scale of one to ten, what does Homie think of it? Ten being potato chips and one being an old sock. Right now Homie thinks it only rates a 3 right up there with a dried three week old fish rack. That number might even drop once she really starts ripening. The blow hole flies might not lay eggs since we are past frost but there are a few smaller type flies interested.
My advice is to find it in the spring when there will be a cool set of whale bones that no one can touch because that is illegal or else a winter storm or three will send her on her way to Nova Scotia.
Unit of Measure: A Standard Rubber Duck.
Length including duck bill: 6 inches (15 centimeters)
Height: 5 inches (12 centimeters)
Width: 3 inches (6 centimeters)
In the afternoon I will be posting photos of the Rubber Duck sitting on a dead Finback Whale washed up on the rocky coast of Cape Ann. It will help to realize that RD is not a small duck. (The closeup fisheye effect of the iPhone distorts the view but RD really is 6 inches from stem to stern.)
And yes, RD has a red fiberglass cast on her right wing. She thanks everyone for all the get well cards. She only misses being able to give Homie a big hug.