A dead sperm whale being transported through Tainan City on its way to a research station suddenly exploded yesterday, splattering cars and shops with blood and guts.
Certified by authorities as the largest beached whale on record in Taiwan, the 17-meter 50-ton carcass was being transported by a flat-bed trailer-truck to a special research location after National Cheng Kung University officials and security guards refused to allow the whale on campus.
The whale was to be preserved and an autopsy performed at the "Shi-Tsao Natural Preserve" in Tainan County by a team of marine biologists and taxidermists.
National Cheng Kung University marine biologist, professor Wang Chien-ping, was on the scene and said he had he instructed the truck driver to move the carcass so the whale could be used for educational purposes and an autopsy could be done.
The beached whale was found on along a stretch of coast in Yunlin County on Saturday.
"The animal was close to death when someone found it beached on shore on Saturday... Because of the natural decomposing process, a lot of gases accumulated, and when the pressure buildup was too great, the whale's belly just exploded and spilled blood and the innards on the street," Wang said.
Despite the explosion, enough of the whale remained intact that it will still be transported to the 'Shi-Tsao Natural Preserve' for a scientific examination, Wang added.
Local news reports showed a number of people who had gathered to take photographs of the whale before it exploded in Tainan City, as well as residents and shop owners following the explosion. Many were wearing gauze-masks and trying to clean up the spilled blood and the entrails with brushes and brooms.
"What a stinking mess! This blood and other stuff that blew out on the road is disgusting, and the smell is really awful," said one resident.
The news also showed one section of the street along with several parked automobiles and pedestrian walkways covered in red with copious amounts of splattered whale blood.
Lying on the trailer-truck was the dead whale - underbelly exposed with a large elongated tear where the biological gaseous blowout took place. Besides the shocking red bloody mess, large piles of whale intestines and guts were strewn along the road, leaving an unpleasant and ghastly scene for startled residents.
According to Wang, an initial assessment suggested the animal looked like an older bull whale. He said the carcass weighed over 50 metric tons and measured 17 meters, making it the largest whale ever recorded in Taiwan. He told the press that previous record was an 11-meter sperm whale which was found beached along a Tainan County coast 8 years ago.
Local media reported the sperm whale was still alive when it was found lying on the seashore in Yunlin County by a fisherman on Saturday morning. The man informed the coast guard and the police for help. When the authorities and conservation groups arrived to attempt a rescue during the afternoon, they found the animal had died.
After the news had spread about the giant beached whale, a mini-circus festival atmosphere prevailed on the site. Throughout the day on Sunday, a large crowd of more than 600 local Yunlin residents and curiosity seekers, along with vendors selling snack food and hot drinks, braved the cold temperature and chilly wind to watch workmen try to haul away the dead marine leviathan.
According to local news reports, the animal's record size proved a tough challenge for the work crews, and it took more than 13 hours, 3 large lifting cranes, and 50 workers to get the beached sperm whale loaded onto the flat-bed trailer-truck to be taken on its final trek.