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Location: Við Áir, near Hvalvík, Faroe Islands
Species: Sperm whale
Four sperm whales became stranded between the islands of Streymoy and Eysturoy. Two of the whales eventually died. A few days later, one of the dead whales was towed to a nearby abandoned whaling station (Við Áir) so the bones could be harvested for a future museum display. However, as they started to cut into the carcass, a violent explosion erupted from the whale’s abdomen spraying blood and entrails for many yards and nearly injuring Bjarni Mikkelsen, the biologist who was doing the cutting.
Video on TheExplodingWhale.com’s YouTube portal
‘There she blows!’ Horrifying footage shows washed-up sperm whale EXPLODING as biologist tries to cut up its carcass
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: 45ft whale beached in the Faroe Islands
It exploded all over a museum worker who wanted its skeleton for exhibit
Cool-as-ice Bjarni Mikkelsen simply called it ‘a little bit of a surprise’
People in the Danish community are still planning to use the remains
Faroe whaling is ancient but condemned by animal rights groups.
It is a job no man would envy.
An unlucky biologist has been filmed trying to cut open a whale carcass – which exploded all over him.
The sperm whale was one of two which died this week after being beached in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, captured on camera by the Faroese Broadcasting Corporation.
The creatures died after becoming trapped in a narrow channel, and residents of the 50,000-strong Danish community wanted to use the skeleton of one for a museum.
So it fell to unlucky Bjarni Mikkelsen, a marine biologist at the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, to cut open the carcass yesterday.
He had never cut open a whale before so he approached the pungent 45ft corpse gingerly.
As soon as he began working, the gas trapped inside exploded, spewing tons of organs and guts into the air.
The main part of the huge blast just missed him.
He told MailOnline: ‘The animal was more than two days old when we took it so we knew there would be some pressure on the inside, but nothing like what happened.
‘We couldn’t imagine it would happen like that so it was a little bit more of a surprise.
‘It wasn’t a shock. We had expected something. In the situation I was more worried about something worse happening or anyone getting hurt.
‘We were cutting along the dorsal part of the animal so when it exploded it did so in a very controlled way.
‘It was very loud, I suppose. It’s something everyone here is talking about.’
Footage of the incident, which happened at 2pm yesterday, has already been seen on YouTube more than 300,000 times.
The islands are 200 miles north of Scotland but have been under the banner of Denmark for 200 years, after previously being ruled by Norway.
People on the Faroe Islands have been hunting pilot whales for centuries, but the practice has been condemned as cruel and unnecessary by animal rights groups.
Despite the gory incident, the locals are still determined to put the skeleton in their museum as a reminder of their culture, and they are already busy cutting up the remains of the carcass.
The whale’s flesh will be thrown away.
HOW GAS BUILDS IN DEAD ANIMALS
When an animal dies, bacteria inside the carcass produce methane as part of the decomposition process.
If this is not let out of the body gradually it builds up, exploding at the first opportunity.
Whales are the most extreme because their huge size makes the consequences of a gas build-up so much greater.
Living toads in Hamburg, Germany, started spontaneously combusting in 2005. It was thought crows were picking out their livers, leaving a hole, so when the toads puffed themselves up as a defence mechanism, their whole bodies burst.
And Royal funeral attendants hurriedly drilled a hole in the coffin of the overweight English king George IV to let out gases – after an apparent botched embalming job.
Sperm Whale Explodes Here in the Faroe Islands
RÓKUR Í JÁKUPSSTOVU
So you might have seen this video that went viral this week, now at 1.9 million views since the incident Tuesday 26 November.
The background story is that 4 sperm whales got stuck near the bridge between our two biggest islands, here in the Faroe Islands, Thursday 21 November.
At least two were beached, and one of them hurt so badly that it bled from hitting the bridge fenders, when taken by the always violent current that goes past there and names the area “Við Streymin” (By The Stream).
See this segment from our national broadcasting company Kringvarp Føroya: http://kvf.fo/netvarp/sv/2013/11/22/storhvalirnir-i-sundalagnum
The experts said that there was nothing that could be done, except wait for them to either get away or die. It was discussed if the beached and struggling ones could be euthanized, but apparently that is even more difficult than normal, once they are beached.
Me and colleagues discussed taking our kids to see the whales, which is only 20 minutes by cars, but life is busy, the days really short by now, and the weather miserable.
By Friday, two of them had left, one had died and one was struggling, only to die a day or so later. Sorry about those scuba divers choosing to ride on it. http://kvf.fo/netvarp/sv/2013/11/22/tveir-avgustar-farnir-og-ein-livi
On Monday, it was announced that they would haul one of the whales to a nearby, defunct whaling station, to be flensed on Tuesday at 10 AM. The idea was (and is) to strip the flesh off the bones, sink them to rot clean for about 6 months, and then take them up to piece together again.
By now I was quite eager to go and watch with our youngest, as my father took me and my brother back in the early eighties, just before the whaling station was shut down. I discussed it with my wife, but we were both busy at work, the boys at school, and the weather miserable.
And then on Tuesday, they cut it open. The keen eye will notice that it is the same guy that we have seen throughout these videos, that cuts the whale. Bjarni Mikkelsen, biologist. http://kvf.fo/netvarp/sv/2013/11/26/hvalurin-brestur-vid-air
The keen eye will also notice, that his two-handed, lance-like, whale flensing knife is ripped from his hands as the whale explodes. According to vp.fo, the blast was so powerful that the the flensing knife (/lance) stood in the wall in that yellow house across the flensing plane.
A schoolmate of our youngest witnessed the explosion, them describing to me how it had been not only loud and shocking, but also really, really smelly.
I never got around to seeing the whales; first chance in that area when I drove to and fro work in Tórshavn today, but it was dark both in the morning and the afternoon, and the weather miserable.
Faroese news coverage
November 21 – December 24, 2013
Kringvarp Føroya (KVF), the national Faroese Broadcasting company, covered the story in numerous phone interviews and segments on the Dagur & Vika (Day and Week) news program. The links to these are provided below. Note that these will be a little hard to follow unless you speak Faroese.
Avgustarnir kunnu liggja í fleiri dagar (21 Nov 2013 – 13:41)
Svomið við avgustunum (21 Nov 2013 – 18:10)
Ein avgustur er deyður og ein er horvin (22 Nov 2013 – 10:55)
Stórhvalirnir í Sundalagnum (22 Nov 2013 – 12:00)
Tveir avgustar farnir og ein á lívi (22 Nov 2013 – 20:17)
Avgusturin kennir seg innistongdan (24 Nov 2013 – 18:40)
Avgusturin verður nú skorin upp (26 Nov 2013 – 13:53)
VIDEO: Her brestur hvalurin (26 Nov 2013 – 17:12)
Hvalurin brestur við Áir (26 Nov 2013 – 19:42)
Vangamyndin: Bjarni Mikkelsen (29 Nov 2013 – 20:48)
Avgusturin í 3D (5 Dec 2013 – 15:38)
Avgustar riknir út úr Sundalagnum (24 Dec 2013 – 01:26)