Scientists have an urgent request prompted by the putrid carcasses of gray whales washing up on the U.S. West Coast: Lend us your private beaches so ocean giants can rot in peace! In Washington, most isolated public beaches have a rotting whale carcass. More than 160 dead whales had washed ashore, stinking up beaches in Mexico, Canada, and the western U.S. coastal states, since January 1. It’s puzzling to find so many rotting whales. The die-off has been declared an “unusual mortality event” by U.S. scientists.
It’s a massive carcass crisis that has authorities scrambling. They’re asking proprietors to consider sharing their own remote beaches. The caveat? Property owners must suffer the scent of a decomposing creature that’s bigger than a school bus and has a reek to equal its size.
A Washington state couple agreed to sacrifice their shoreline for a whale corpse. Due to the stench, the owners kindly asked their neighbor’s permission first. They received the carcass in early June. It was wrangled by motorboat three miles along the coast to the couple’s beach—150 yards from their house. There it was moored to tree stumps. The smell lasts about a month. “It's decomposing nicely. There've been a couple of days this week when I was out there mowing and I was like, ‘Oooph,’” Mario Rivera said of the 40-foot whale.
For decades, no one’s known what to do with stranded baleen carcasses. They have been necropsied (cut up to discover the cause of death), buried, lugged to landfills—even sunk at sea. Others were allowed to decompose naturally on beaches. In 1970, a disintegrating whale became a debacle when officials attempted to hasten the decay process. They chose to blow up the cetacean with dynamite. The blast spread the whale in the form of chunks of burning, rotting blubber, raining down on spectators. Some large segments even crushed nearby cars. Lesson learned.
For each marooned carcass, approximately nine others sink into the sea unnoticed. This phenomenon is called “whale fall.” It’s an example of God’s clearly designed course for nature. Although a whale fall marks the end of the whale’s life, it is the beginning of a life-line for tens of thousands of other deep-sea organisms. After humankind fell into sin, death brought stench and decay to all of the creation. But God in His goodness made provision—even for whale rot. He assigns bacteria, birds, beetles, worms, fish, shrimp, and more the work of turning dead matter into invigorating nourishment for new organisms.