ALTERNATIVE TOURIST ATTRACTION IN AEGINA
LIVING FEB 2008
One morning, just a week after Easter in the year 2006,a friend
passed the house to inform us of a huge whale that was literally
beached but dead at the beach in Leonti.
clambered into the car and set off for Leonti where we were soon
forced to slow down because of the convoy of vehicles meandering
towards the place where the whale was positioned.
We smelt it
before we saw it, a revolting stench which made one want to
heave, a putrid cocktail of anaerobic bacteria, ammonia, bile
and rotting flesh.
was that this poor male baleen had swum too far inshore,
straight in to the path of a large cargo or ferryboat making its
way across the Saronic Gulf.
was apparently oblivious to its presence and unaware of the
propeller slicing its way through the whale’s tail. The incident
must have happened at night because the haemorrhage would have
been huge, large enough to have alerted the crew but nobody was
aware of the whale’s perilous fate and this caused a certain
amount of stress among the Greek sailors who love and respect
dolphins and whales alike
learnt about baleen whales when I read for my biology degree, in
particular I remembered that they were filter feeders. *Fringed
horny plates composed of keratin(like finger-nails and hairs)
hang from the palate and are used to strain zooplankton,
including krill from the water.
whales simply swim along with their mouths open, allowing
plankton and krill to enter but filtering out any unwanted
matter.I hadn’t appreciated though just how big and bushy those
filters were; they were like huge industrial brooms.
pleats traversed the whale’s belly and these had to be slit open
so that the intestines could be pulled into the deep grave,
making the whale less heavy work when the time came to heave in
his whole body.
Poulopoulos, the well known director of Ekpaz ( the animal
centre in Anitsao) was in charge of the operation and seemed to
know exactly what he was doing...
sorry for Yiannis and fervently curious, my sons opted to return
to the house to collect rubber gloves and their own shovels so
that they could assist him with his demanding work.
If I had
been a Greek mother, I suppose I would have refused and reminded
them of the health risk involved in such offensive smelling work
but instead, being naturally curious and always having had a
morbid curiosity about anatomy and physiology of most creatures,
I decided it would be akin to having an exclusive natural
science dissection lesson; a wonderful learning opportunity.
grateful for the help. My eldest felt honoured and particularly
proud to be able to assist with incising the whale’s abdomen and
the two boys shovelled spade loads of debris from its cavernous
mouth. The locals watched from a safe distance, some holding
handkerchiefs to their noses, others took photographs and some
children were simply not allowed out of their cars.
It took two
bulldozers to eventually prize the whale into the grave which
measured 2 metres deep
I had to
keep the car windows completely wound down when I collected the
boys as they emanated an unbearable stench and I insisted they
peel off their clothes outside the front door and deposit all
their clothing, including their trainers into a plastic bin-bag
so that I could simply tip the garments directly into the
washing machine without touching them.
Nevertheless, the boys had really valued the whole experience
and learnt so much from Yiannis as they worked alongside him
Yiannis had made some important observations and had conducted a
little research, the results of which are as follows:
The species was a fin whale ( Balaenoptera physalus)
It was approximately 15 metres long
At least 4 metres of the distal end of the body was missing
The fin had been removed ( possibly taken as a souvenir!?)
It was well fed and well hydrated.
The abdomen was full of shrimp.
Three baleens had been spotted swimming in the Saronic Gulf for
at least three months before finding the dead one
It was first spotted floating near the rocky island called
To visit Ekpaz, drive to Anitsaio. Here you will see all sorts
of rescued animals.
are very helpful and informative and the director, Yiannis
Poulopoulos is particularly well informed about all sorts of
zoological and environmental issues. He is a valuable mine of
information. Tel: 22970 – 31338 Mobile 6979 252277
Winter 10:00 – 15:00
Summer 10:00 – 14:00 and 18:00 - -21:00
*Kershaw D edition (1988)
Animal Diversity, page 401
Lorentzos Copyright 2008