A sperm whale became stranded on Snæfellsnes. According to Skúli Alexanderson, a local resident, the whale is easy to get to and several passers-by have gone down to look at it. “You can go up to the whale and touch it. The high-tide may come in around it but it is located extremely high up above sea-level,” Skúli reported to mbl.is.
According to Gísli Víkinsson, whale expert at the Marine Research Institute, about 10 to15 whale strandings occur around Iceland every year and most often it is not known why they swim or drift up to the shore. “They can die from natural causes and then perhaps drift towards land,” says Gísli. The sperm whale that was discovered on Sunday is 12 to 15 meters long and according to Morgunblaðið’s correspondent in Hellissandur, the whale looks whole and has not started to rot. Gísli says that the sperm whale is more likely than larger whales to drift towards land because it floats better while larger whales tend to sink if they die in the sea.
The sperm whale has not been hunted in Iceland since 1981 and many are found in the waters surrounding the island. However, they tend to keep their distance from land. The sperm whale is one of the whale species which dives the deepest and can stay under water the longest. They are able to stay under water for up to one hour at a deepth of up to 500 meters. For this reason, the sperm whale is not often seen on whale watching expeditions.
Gísli says that it depends on the municipality each time what action is taken regarding the whale carcass. It can be very difficult to move a whale carcass which can weigh up to 60 tons. Therefore it is often left to decompose naturally. However, the smell can be a problem if it is located near an inhabited area, in which case it is often dragged back out to sea or buried, mbl.is reports.
As mbl.is reported earlier, there is easy access for passers-by to go and look at the whale and Gísli added that there was nothing in particular to beware of around a whale carcass.
Someone has taken this advice quite literally because yesterday, ruv.is reported that someone had stolen the lower jaw from the whale, and therefore the teeth that come with it. The thief must have been in quite a hurry since he left the saw in a puddle close by. It is believed that the teeth will be coated with silver and then sold. The crime has been reported to the police and wildlife conservation authorities.
The story was also reported by the local news website for West Iceland, skessuhorn.is, where a picture depicting the whale’s mouth was published.