SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The port authorities at Terneuzen had major surprise when they spotted a 17-metre dead whale floating in the water on Tuesday.
The animal had become stuck to the bow of a Panamanian freighter after a collision at some point during the voyage to the Netherlands. The sperm whale was hauled out of the water and put on the Goese Kade dockside where it awaits further analysis by researchers from University of Utrecht and the Naturalis biodiversity centre.
‘This is definitely a first’, an astonished port worker said. The investigation will have to establish exactly what killed the animal. ‘It’s quite a big specimen,’ researcher Pepijn Kamminga told local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland.
‘The sperm whale is the second largest of the whale family and it can reach a length of 25 metres. This one is about 15 to 17 metres long.’ Kamminga has only seen pictures of the dead whale but thinks it was hit in its side.
It will difficult to tell where the collision happened, he said, because even with an animal as big as a whale, the effect on the huge freighter is nil and its presence would not be noticed.
The dissection of the animal will take place on Wednesday. Too large to fit into the Rotterdam Natuurhistorisch museum’s collection of animals which have come to a tragic end, Naturalis will be bagging the whale skull for its collection.