The Canadian government and the Royal Ontario Museum will take ownership of two blue whale carcasses that died after getting caught in heavy ice and washed up in the Newfoundland towns of Trout River and Rocky Harbour at the end of April.
The Trout River whale gained international media attention after the 80-foot-long creature became massively bloated — ballooning to more double its normal size — because of methane gas released by the decomposing body. Many people thought the whale might explode (a website called the hasthewhaleexplodedyet.com was even created to track the whale’s status), but the that’s not likely to happen anymore, as the gas seems have started to dissipate.
Don Bradshaw, a reporter from Canadian new agency NTV who has been following the story, said on Twitter Thursday afternoon that the bloating was decreasing.
A team from the Royal Ontario Museum led by deputy director Mark D. Engstrom will be headed to Newfoundland to recover the whale skeletons and tissue samples for scientific research, the Canadian government said in a news release.
“This loss, representing up to 5% of this endangered species, is extremely unfortunate,” Engstrom said in a statement. “This is an important opportunity to further our understanding of these magnificent animals and provide an invaluable resource for Canadian science and education now and in the future.”
The removal process won’t be easy — blue whales are one of the largest animals on Earth. A Representative from the museum told Bradshaw that removing the whales will take weeks.
Scientists around the world will likely want to get their hands on parts of the carcasses for research.