Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Kilbrittain Whale

I love weird crap. I have loads of holiday photos of my wife looking bemused outside some odd tourist destination. Here is one of my wife outside the udderly brilliant Cork Butter Museum last Sunday.

But last week I think I may have reached the Zenith of weird tourist destinations. This acme of travel strangeness is the Kilbrittain Finn whale. This specimen of the second largest species of whale is mounted in the middle of a town several kilometers inland.

How did it get here? The Channel 4 whale autopsy provides some of the answers about this poor animals beaching in 2009. Three minutes in (or 20 seconds in the video below) you see the frankly unbelievable result of a bad autopsy of a whale. Exploding entrails all over the Denmark beach is the sort of image that stays with you.

What this pathological investigation misses though is the Machiavellian intrigue that lead to this particular resting place for the whale. When it landed in 2009 various locals tried to make off with the 50 ton pile of putrifying Balaenoptera physalus. "Apparently, an attempt was made on Saturday night under cover of darkness to steal the jaws but their bulk proved too much for the perpetrators. "

There are stories of a beach based stand off between the communities of Kilbrittain and Courtmacsherry. "Shortly after it died two men from Courtmacsherry, also known as a drinking village with a fishing problem, approached with a chainsaw. Their plan was to saw off its head and mount the jaw bones in the village. However, they were confronted by Kilbrittain residents who told them they were claiming the carcass." Presumably at some point in these tense negotiations two large groups of adults both armed with heavy machinery both realised that they were fighting for control of several dozen tons of rotting whale carcass.

There is no simile that really can convey the logic here. No metaphor can quite sum up the Irish ability to fight over possession of something that no one would want. But if I had go for one description it would be "like a stand off over 50 tons of festering cetacean".

Now having 'won' the whale, some lads from the local abattoir spent 18 months rendering the stinking baleen bag. This year and a half long job is shown in a frankly horrifying pictographic montage beside the the spoiled beluga that now rests in the middle of Kilbrittain park.

There was a great moment on redneck roundup (as nationwide is known inside RTE) about the whale where one of the guys who spent the lifespan of a hamster hacking at the pile of rancid blubber admits they may have gotten the order of some of the bones wrong.

One thing words cannot convey is the stench coming off this attraction. Some flesh still seems to cling to the head parts resulting in an overpowering odour of death.

It was so bad we could not eat the ice-creams we brought to the park. I advise you to go see the Kilbrittain whale while it still has this stench. There is nothing like the smell of dead whale to make you wonder about what some people will go see/fight over.


The Beer Nut said...

My favourite, as I've said, is the Estonian Sea Mine Museum, mostly for the cartoon sea dog who runs it.

They seem to have decided to up their weirdness quotient this summer, and are now exhibiting sea mines that have been turned into prams and toilets. Outstanding.

red dave said...

You never told me they had a website. That is top notch!

Stan said...

There's a great short story in this.

red dave said...

Hi Stan. It seems ideal for both a John B Keane play and a father Ted episode.