Photo of Humpback Whale Jumping out of the Water

The Unfortunate Smells of a Dead Whale


As I pulled into the driveway yesterday afternoon and got out of my car, a pretty foul odor hit my nose.  We live next to a wooded empty lot, so I thought something had died.  I investigated in the front yard but couldn't find anything.  I then went inside for a bit and into the back yard where the smell was just as strong.  I had never smelled anything this bad, this spread out before, so it was a little baffling.  I went back inside and out the front door to the bus stop to pick up one of our kids when a neighbor came out and let me know the news.  A whale had died a day prior and washed up here in the waters of Virginia Beach.

While I knew about the dead whale, what I didn't know is that the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response team had brought the whale on shore a few hundred yards from our house to begin a necropsy and then dispose of the carcass.  Apparently when they cut into the whale, the stench was released and overwhelmed our entire neighborhood.  There was no escaping it, except going inside, which I couldn't do.  For the next 20-30 minutes, the overpowering smell of decay and death hung in the air.  The first few waves left me wretching.  I even put on a surgical mask for a few minutes, which helped some.

While I have been around some bad smells, and even worse smells than this, I had never experienced something that covered so much area for so long.  Gone was the salt marsh smells, the fresh ocean air smells, replaced with the miasma of rotting flesh.  As the smell disippated and we made our way back home, unfortunately some of it lingered in our garage and house.  So I had to air it out, and light some of our orbit candles to clear it out. There have been a number of whale deaths, which may or may not be unusual this time of year, and we await the results of what happened to this one.

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