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Whale dissected in front of gathered crowds on coast of De Haan
Curious onlookers were in abundance on the beach at De Haan on Thursday, and who could blame them: Scientists were busy dissecting a dead whale that had been spotted drifting off the Belgian coast and was pulled onto shore by the coast guard late last night.
The 18-metre-long fin whale, which the scientists have named Antonius, died at sea and drifted towards the coastline. Scientists from Ghent and Liege universities cut slices into the whale this morning because gasses were building up inside of it, and they wanted to prevent the carcass from exploding, spilling its contents on to the sand.
They then set to work cutting the animal into pieces for disposal and taking some samples for research purposes. “For us this is one big database of scientific material,” said Marjan Doom, veterinarian and director of the Ghent University Museum. “We will preserve a number of parts of the skeleton. The pelvic bones, lower jaw and flipper – his swimming ‘arm’ – are all very useful in illustrating evolution.”
They will also try to determine the cause of death, though Doom said that the chance of that was unlikely. “People like to know that because that huge beast is laying here, and you have this feeling of powerlessness,” she told VRT. “But my experience tells me that the cause of death of a whale that washes ashore if very difficult to determine.”
People were indeed impressed by the spectacle. “It’s really beautiful,” said one onlooker to VRT. “I mean, it’s too bad that it died, but it’s still really beautiful.”
Normally whales that was ashore are given a name, and scientists are calling the whale Antonius because yesterday was the feast day of Saint Anthony Mary Claret of Barcelona.
Photo: Kurt Desplenter/BELGA