Call me old fashioned, but I avoid dead whale carcasses as a rule. Part of it has to do with the fact I don’t go out to sea much, but a bigger part has to do with my aversion to large, rubbery-looking things that bob around in water and emit an odor that buckles your knees and melts your nasal passages. A dead whale is the H-Bomb of bad smells.
I know this from personal experience.
I once encountered a dead whale on a beach in South Carolina. It had washed up there after apparently floating around at sea for a few weeks. The girl I was with and I were walking up to get a closer look at it when the wind shifted. I know now that, if I was a spy and the enemy captured me, all they’d have to do is spray essence of dead whale under my nose and I’d give up the secret rocket formula just like that.
We where hit with a full frontal blast of pure rotten whale funk. I don’t think a face full of mace would have affected us the way that whale funk did. It is an odor that has its own atmosphere. There is a thickness to it. It overwhelms your senses and paralyzes you. The world becomes that smell. You half suffocate, because you don’t want to breath it in.
I would like to report that I heroically sprang to action and led her out of the funk zone, but it was an every-man-for-himself scenario. Like synchronized swimmers, we slapped our palms over our mouths and noses and back peddled our way out of there. I can’t speak for her, but I, for one, had to resist the urge to claw out my eyes.
Fortunately, the wind shifted again and we were spared. I wish I could say as much for the nuclear family of mom, dad and the kids who were standing a few yard from us. They caught a direct hit. The little girl cried.
A few years after my experience, I heard a British reporter describe the smell of a dead whale he experienced as “crippling,” which is the best description I have heard for it. He wasn’t trying to be funny.
In my ignorance, I actually thought there was nothing special about a dead whale outside the fact you could drop it on the city of your enemies and bring them to their knees. Apparently, I am wrong. Apparently, dead, decaying whale carcasses are sort of a big deal ecosystem-wise. I base this on the fact there is a documentary about them and I have never seen a documentary about other dead, decaying critters, say for instance, deer or mountain lions.
The documentary I saw is on YouTube. It is called: The Stages of Whale Decomposition. I had no idea whale decomposition came in stages, much less that there were four of them. Before I watched the documentary, if I had to guess I would have guessed there were two stages of whale decomposition: Stage 1 – Just died and still pretty much smells like a live whale and Stage 2 – Get that thing away from me.
Turns out there are actually four stages. I would tell you what all four are, but I was writing a blog entry while the documentary was playing and didn’t pay that much attention to it. I can tell you the first stage is large critters eat it and the last stage is microscopic critters on the bottom of the sea eat it. And check this out – the little critters can eat on a whale carcass for a thousand years according to the people who actually give a rat’s tail section about what microscopic critters at the bottom of the sea eat.
I’ll tell you about a video clip I did pay attention to. It was a video where a biologist – an educated man, mind you – jumped on the belly of a dead whale so he could get close up pictures of the great white sharks eating the whale.
Educated man, mind you.
Supposed to have a grain of sense, mind you.
Jumped on top of a dead whale so he could take close up shots of the great whites eating the whale, mind you.
Why he didn’t pass out from the smell or tear through the whale when he landed on it or just plain slipped and fell off the thing and wound up getting a close up shot of a great white’s gullet, I’ll never know. I do know had he died, the headline would read something like this: Gene Pool Improves Dramatically! Whale Hopping Shark Photographer Prevented from Reproducing.
I guess we should all be thankful the scientific community is giving dead whales the consideration they deserve. My hope is the military is looking at a way to weaponize them. A few well-placed carcass bombing raids might be all it takes to bring the likes of Al-Qaeda to its knees. As a first hand experiencer of the power of whale funk, I am willing to get my security clearance and assist my country. The only caveat is, if the enemy captures me and threatens to give me the old whale funk treatment, I’ll talk.