By Abena Rockcliffe
Workers attached to the Ministry of Public Works and Police ranks had their work cut out for
them as hundreds of curious persons converged yesterday morning to view the remains of a 40-ft Sperm Whale. The massive mammal was discovered ashore at the Kitty Seawall, in the vicinity of the Russian Embassy.
It was almost as if there was a national event at the seawall as the presence of the dead whale attracted large crowds of young and old spectators and a massive traffic jam.
Onlookers braved the rain as they snapped photos, retrieved skin as souvenirs, and even climbed onto the whale’s back.
Kaieteur News understands that the whale has been struggling in Guyana waters for some time now.
According to an official from the National Wildlife Management Committee, Annette Arjoon, this fact was brought to their attention since Sunday last.
Arjoon, who was on site from early yesterday morning until late last night, told this publication that a fisherman alerted them on Sunday about the whale’s distress. She said that the man had said that the whale was located some 10 kilometres off the Mahaicony Coast.
The fisherman indicated that the whale got trapped in his net. He said that he attempted to bring the mammal ashore so as to salvage his four-km fishing net which was worth some US$3000 but gave up after the weight of the whale caused damage to the bow of his boat.
Arjoon said that the fisherman had related that even though the whale was in 75 feet of water,
his struggles were digging up a lot of mud.
Apparently, the fisherman was confused, as he has indicated that the fishing boat is 45 feet long, but said that the whale was at least four times the length of his boat, with an extremely big head.
Arjoon said that after speaking to the unidentified fisherman, a team went to Mahaicony but couldn’t get to the location on sea. Later that day, they used a GDF helicopter in search of the mammal.
On Monday, a team ventured to locate the whale again, this time using a metal shark boat to patrol the coast, but found nothing. She said that about five o’clock yesterday morning she was informed that the whale had floated ashore.
Arjoon told this publication that she took numerous photos of the whale and sent it to experts in Puerto Rico and Venezuela who later gave advice. She said that the whale is about six years old and weighed about 30 tonnes.
Arjoon said that she was advised by the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada to encourage preservation for educational purposes.
Pointing out that whales decompose quickly, Arjoon said that it was imperative that the removal of the whale was done yesterday as it could have burst while being transported.
She noted that the desire was to have the whale buried intact so that the skeleton could have later been retrieved then placed on exhibition in the National Zoo’s fish section.
The plan was to load the whale onto a flatbed trailer then transport it to its place of burial.
However, late last night Arjoon said that it no longer seemed possible, as hours of relentless efforts to even lift the whale were futile. She said that two excavators were initially used but another was needed.
Arjoon indicated as well, that they were trying to decompress the whale by releasing some of its bodily fluids.
She said that the other option was to cut the whale using bow saw blades as the use of a chainsaw would have caused it to explode which is dangerous because of the whale’s toxic oils.
Arjoon said that it was a truly collaborative effort as the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard, Ministry of Public Works, Fisheries Department and the National Wildlife Management Committee, and Vanessa Benn of Iwokrama worked together.
Up to late last night, scores of people remained on the seawall, as efforts were being made to remove the mammal.
Earlier in the day, hundreds gathered and many differing opinions were expressed. Some were concerned about how the whale met its demise and some were just curious to get a glimpse of an animal that is rarely witnessed in this part of the world.
One woman told Kaieteur News that she saw the whale “take his last breath.” Another woman, said to be way into her 80’s said, “this is a must see for me” as she hustled to get a glimpse.
Many were seen in their working uniforms and seemed to care little about returning to duty.
Police had a hard time getting people to back away so that others could have done their jobs and the traffic was so congested that ranks had to begin diverting vehicles in the vicinity of Celena’s
The sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator. It can be found anywhere in the open ocean. Mature males average at 16 metres (52 ft) in length but some may reach 20.5 metres (67 ft), with the head representing up to one-third of the animal’s length. The sperm whale feeds primarily on squid. Plunging to 2,250 metres (7,380 ft) for prey, it is the second deepest diving mammal, following only the Cuvier’s beaked whale.
The sperm whale has the largest brain of any animal on Earth, more than five times heavier than a human’s. Sperm whales can live for more than 60 years.
The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name. Spermaceti was used in lubricants, oil lamps, and candles. Occasionally the sperm whale’s great size allows it to defend itself effectively against whalers. The species is now protected by a whaling moratorium, and is currently listed as vulnerable.
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