Nation & World News

What To Do With A Whale Carcass? Question Looms Large In Small Town

By Laurel Dalrymple on May 1st, 2014

This post was updated at 5:18 p.m.

Trout River, Newfoundland: Population: 600, 1 rotting whale carcass.

The blue whale appeared on the town’s shores a week ago, one of two that have washed up recently in western Newfoundland. They are thought to have been part of a group of blue whales that got trapped in shifting ice and died.

Trout River (and nearby Rocky Harbour) is at the center of a debate about what to do with its decaying, methane-filled beast, which some residents fear might explode. Canadian officials announced Thursday that the two whales will be recovered by the Royal Ontario Museum in Ottawa.

But not everyone in Trout River wants to see that whale go. In fact, for Doris and Tom Sheppard, who own a B&B on a hill overlooking the picturesque fishing village, business has been booming, so to speak. Doris Sheppard, 65, took some time to talk with NPR about the whole whale predicament (edited for content and clarity):

Are you worried about how the whale will affect tourism? Are you afraid no one will come to your B&B if there’s a rotting whale nearby?

Oh, I have been inundated with calls, people are coming. … We’re full tonight, we’re full tomorrow night, we’re full the next night. People are coming and will continue to come. The whole world wants a piece of this action.

What’s going on? How close can people get to the whale?

Well, the Department of Fisheries now has a 24-hour guard on it, but there are people coming constantly for a look. They can get pretty close. It’s not safe to stand on the whale now. We’ve had some pretty good weather this past week and the sun is shining on it, so the decaying process has really taken hold now and the skin is getting soft.

Aren’t people deterred by the smell?

Well, the cold was keeping it from smelling. But now, late in the afternoon you get the smell. I got a whiff of it night before last and it was a smell that just stuck with me after I got home, still in my brain. It wasn’t pleasant. If I tried to describe the smell it would make you throw up.

Does the whale look any bigger?

Let me explain it this way. If you had a brand new shiny new tire, that’s what it was like 2 weeks ago. Now it looks like a deflated flat tire. The methane gas is seeping out. I don’t think it will explode, unless someone goes up and punctures it.

Are businesses that are closer to the whale nervous?

Oh, no. The local business with the takeout and the convenience stores, they’re making quite a few sales right now on snack foods. They’re not worried that this is going to be long-term because there are so many people who’d like to come now and take it away for monetary or scientific reasons.

Who wants to take it away?

I’ve had calls from all over, as far as California and North Dakota, from people willing to come and take it away, provided they get the bones. The bones are valuable. Actually, I think if I could afford it, I would keep it.

What would you do with it?

It’s a tourist attraction! We have 5 acres of land!

What’s the mood like in the community?

Well, we have mixed feelings now that we’re getting help to remove it, because now we’d kind of like to have the bones here as part of our history. They should set the bones up in our town, so that our small little town could benefit from this. Right now it looks like that’s going to be taken away from us.

What’s the mood like at your B&B?

We like to entertain people. Now, I’m one that likes to tell a few stories. So now I have a whale of a tale to share.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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