Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland town wants rid of massive, long-dead humpback whale

A Newfoundland town is hoping to quickly remove the massive body of a humpback whale that has been stuck there since last fall.

As temperatures warm up, residents worry about the stench of a giant, rotting whale carcass

A beached humpback whale in Nameless Cove, N.L., that washed ashore last fall is a growing concern for the community. (CP)

A tiny Newfoundland town is hoping to quickly remove the massive body of a humpback whale that has been stuck there since last fall, fearing the impending odour and mess as warmer weather approaches.

The whale's body was frozen and covered with snow for the winter months in Nameless Cove, but has become an urgent issue for the community.

Nameless Cove is a community on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula. (Google Maps)

"The warmer temperatures are coming and you obviously know what's gonna happen next," Hank Diamond, a member of the local service district committee, said Wednesday.

"You won't be able live in that community in the summer, probably, if you don't move it."

It's not just residents who will be confronted with the carcass and the stink, but tourists as well.

Maggie Chambers, who runs the French Island Bed and Breakfast in nearby Flowers Cove, says she directs tourists to see the Flower's Island lighthouse — but to get to the best vantage point, tourists will have to pass by the whale.

"They won't want to go out there because the smell is going to be so bad, and the crows and the gulls now are picking at it and soon it's going to — I don't know what will happen to it once the heat gets in it," she said.

Chambers is also worried about the smell wafting over her property when the winds change.

"I'm looking out my patio door now from my bed and breakfast, and there's a lake of water between us and the whale — and I can practically see it from my patio deck," she said.

The dead whale may be partially frozen now, but as spring moves along the carcass is thawing out. (Hank Diamond)

Nameless Cove is waiting on a price quote from contractors, and Diamond said the community is hoping for provincial assistance to remove the sizable creature, which he estimates to be 25-30 feet.

"It would take a fairly fair-sized vessel to move that off the beach even at high tide, you know, and it seems to be settling in the sand more, so it's gonna be harder and harder to get outta there, and it's starting to rot."

It's like Russian roulette: whatever community it lands on, it's on you.- Hank Diamond

The body is in close proximity to some residences and wharfs, and is less than 100 metres from a graveyard.

Looking for help

Diamond reached out to Service NL after Fisheries and Oceans Canada told Nameless Cove the removal of the whale carcass is the municipality's responsibility.

The dead whale was still partially covered in snow earlier this week. (Hank Diamond)

In an e-mailed statement, Service NL said it is working with the district and "the whale will have to be moved and disposed of, either by towing it to a more secluded location to decompose or by burial."

Dead, smelly whales are not uncommon an issue for seaside Newfoundlanders; last June, a dead humpback was lifted by crane in Outer Cove, N.L., and taken to a disposal site.

But small communities like Nameless Cove, armed with tiny boats and a population of fewer than 100 people in northern Newfoundland, are faced with a difficult task when whales wash ashore.

'It's got to move'

Diamond said DFO officials visited the site last fall to assess the beached whale, leading many locals to believe they would return to remove the body in the spring. Then residents were surprised and upset when DFO told them it fell outside the department's responsibility.

"It's like Russian roulette: whatever community it lands on, it's on you," Diamond said.

Chambers said she's surprised the whale hasn't been dealt with already.

"If they wait too long … the weather now, it's June, and the weather is starting to heat up ... and the next thing it's going to fall apart and we're going to have a bigger mess," she said.

So far, Diamond said the response from Service NL has been encouraging. But the town needs to move fast on the difficult removal, with or without the government's help.

"If they support it or if they don't — it's got to move," said Diamond. "We'll see to it, I guess."

It can't be moved soon enough for Chambers.

"We have a B&B here, we have a restaurant here, we have our hospital here, and we have a pharmacy. Flower's Cove is a service community for the rest of the 13 communities and more," she said.

"Other people have to come in to our community for the hospital. They have to come in for the pharmacy. And it's going to affect the other communities, because the smell is going to go through the other communities, where we're so closely connected."

With files from On The Go