Nfld. & Labrador

2 dead whales wash up on opposite coasts of Newfoundland

The bodies of two different whales are creating separate stirs along the shorelines of Newfoundland's Northern and Avalon peninsulas.
Hiker Fern Burke came across this carcass while hiking near Tors Cove. DFO has identified it as a minke whale. (Submitted by Fern Burke)

The decomposing carcasses of two different whales are creating a stir and a stink on opposite shorelines of Newfoundland, on the Avalon and Northern peninsulas.

Fern Burke was out for a hike on the East Coast Trail Wednesday evening between Tors Cove and Mobile when she came across one of the dead whales, at Kearney's Beach.

DFO says nature is taking its course to dispose of the minke whale. (Submitted by Fern Burke)

"It's pretty amazing, and then it's kind of sad, because you're wondering, what happened? Was it struck by a ship? Did something kill it?" Burke told CBC News, adding she only got as close to it as odour would allow.

"Oh yeah, there's a stench! Not so much say if the wind is off the land, but yesterday evening it wasn't, it was coming into the beach so it's quite strong — nasty."

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed the Tors Cove carcass is of a long-dead minke whale.

Research scientist Jack Lawson said the whale appeared healthy at its time of death, with no signs of obvious trauma 

With the whale's body below the high tide mark, it continues to wash in and out with the tide as nature takes its course to decompose the body, a process Burke can attest to.

"It's probably been in the sun for a few days, so [it's] really badly decomposing. All the outer flesh is starting to fall away, so the smell is really strong."

David and Shandi Mitchelmore came across this carcass Wednesday evening, just outside their Northern Peninsula community. (Submitted by David Mitchelmore)

Northern Peninsula humpback

Meanwhile, Shandi Mitchelmore, 11, and her brother David of Cook's Harbour were out along the shoreline near their community Wednesday evening when they spotted something unusual: a whale's bloated body, puffed up and rocking in the surf.

David Mitchelmore snaps a whale selfie with the dead humpback near Cook's Harbour. (Submitted by David Mitchelmore)

"It was very blown up by the gases that were trapped inside of him, and it was really big," said Shandi Mitchelmore, estimating it was about nine metres long. 

Lawson identified the whale as a smaller adult male humpback, but couldn't give an estimate of age or cause of death based on photos.

"It was really cool, and it looked really rubbery," said Mitchelmore, of seeing her first dead whale up close.

The two whales may be different species, on opposite sides of the island, but they share one thing in common.

"It smelled really rotten," said Mitchelmore.


Lindsay Bird

CBC News

Lindsay Bird is a journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in Corner Brook.