Wednesday, July 27, 2011

whale meat again

I've noticed a bit of a flurry of sea monster stories in the Daily Mail recently, and by "a flurry" I mean "two": this one about a mysterious thing washed up on a beach in China, and this one about a slightly smaller but equally mysterious thing washed up on a beach in Scotland.

The first (and indeed only) rule of mysterious dead things either washed up on beaches or hauled up by boats is that they are always the badly (or extremely well, depending on how you look at it) decomposed remains of some perfectly well known and documented creature, however freaky and weird they may look. Just as the bizarre-looking thing hauled in by the Zuiyō Maru is just a basking shark, it's equally clear that the Chinese sea monster is a dead rorqual (i.e. a large-ish whale) of some sort, and that the Aberdeen sea monster is some sort of smaller toothed whale or porpoise, probably a pilot whale, since these great big blubbery cretins are getting themselves stranded on beaches all the time.

I will admit, even knowing all this, to a certain fascination with mysterious stuff washing up from the murky deep - if you feel the same way then the cryptozoology section of Darren Naish's excellent Tetrapod Zoology blog is the place for you - lots of excellent stuff on the two Montauk monsters (aka a couple of dead raccoons), the Lake Champlain monster (probably a funny-shaped log), the Hook Island monster (an elaborate hoax) and many more (including some land-based stuff). The coelacanth really has a lot to answer for here - because it managed to skulk around undetected for 65 million years without having the decency to evolve into something different and start wearing digital watches and entering into complex hire purchase agreements we now have to put up with the constant chorus of "well, you don't know there aren't a colony of plesiosaurs in Loch Ness, do you? Remember the coelacanth!".

One last word on this subject: if you do find yourself with a large dead whale on your beach in a state of decomposition and need to get rid of it pronto as it's putting the beachgoers off their ice cream, then on no account should you attempt to blow it up. On the other hand it may just blow up anyway; you never know.

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