Monday 19 August 2019

Villagers in row over ownership of whale carcass

The decomposing Fin Back whale on a sandbank off Courtmacsherry, in West Cork, as an attempt is made to move the 50-tonne carcass, now the subject of a local dispute
The decomposing Fin Back whale on a sandbank off Courtmacsherry, in West Cork, as an attempt is made to move the 50-tonne carcass, now the subject of a local dispute
Finbarr O’Mahony at a 'secret location' in Kilbrittain with the jaw bone of the dead whale

Ralph Riegel

THE jaw bones of a giant 18-metre whale are now being hidden after a row between two villages over who owns the 50-tonne carcass.

The female Fin Back whale is lying on the sandbank off Courtmacsherry, in West Cork, where she died last Thursday.

However, the whale's giant jaw bones have already been removed by locals and are being stored in "a secret location" in Kilbrittain after the row over who had the rights to the whale carcass.

It is understood the jaw bones were removed over the weekend by a number of men using a chain saw.

Kilbrittain locals insisted the whale died in their section of the harbour, while residents in the nearby village of Courtmacsherry proposed preserving the jaw bones and mounting them as a memorial in their town hall.

Last night, Kilbrittain resident Finbarr O'Mahony vowed that the entire whale skeleton, and not just the jaw bones, will eventually be put on display in Kilbrittain.

"It will go on display. And not just the jaw bone. We want to put the entire thing, the whole whale, on display, right here," he said.

Mr O'Mahony indicated that Kilbrittain's town hall will be one of the venues considered for the future display. The whale entered the harbour on an unusually high tide early last Thursday morning -- and became disorientated when the water receded, finally becoming trapped on a sandbank.

The whale died just over six hours after being trapped and before a massive rescue operation by marine volunteers could reach her.

Scavengers, including crabs and seabirds, have been feasting on the whale for the past five days -- and sections of the giant mammal's rib cage and spine are now fully exposed.

Burial

Now, a burial appears doomed to failure because of the combination of poor weather conditions and high tides.

A final decision on whether to attempt to bury the whale will be taken today.

The state of decomposition of the whale's carcass is likely to be a further factor in whether a burial operation is attempted at low tide today.

Another option being considered is towing the rotting carcass out of the harbour by trawler and disposing of it in deep water. Major sections of the whale, including organs, have already been removed by scientists for examination to determine the whale's origin and state of health.

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