Tilikum the Orca died over the weekend. For the uninitiated (i.e. non-whale enthusiasts) Tilikum was the subject of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, and survived longer in captivity than all but one killer whale.
His is a sad story. First its a damn shame this whale was imprisoned for most of its life. I’ve been to SeaWorld and its a pretty awful place even if you aren’t confined to a tank (but to be fair most touristy places are dystopian Hell-holes).
Another reason this whale’s death has got me down is because its had a much more interesting life than I have despite having spent most of it in an enormous bathtub. Tilikum was initially captured off the coast of Iceland, and as someone whose wanted to visit that country for quite some time I am jealous he got that close.
Did you know Tilikum had killed three people? Of course this is a tragedy but it certainly adds to the legend of this great beast. Tilikum was a real life Moby Dick, laying waste to those who sought to do him wrong. As a lover of literature and sea creatures I can not help but appreciate the parallels. Also, if you think I’m making light of this look at it from the whale’s situation. Wouldn’t you want to go on a murderous rampage from time to time if your existence was being locked up and forced to perform for slack jawed yokels day in and day out? I know I’m guilty of visiting the park but if I were to have fallen his tank and was eaten so be it. I had it coming.
And if you weren’t impressed by his kill count maybe the number 21 will impress you. That’s how many times Tilkium was a baby daddy. I like to imagine he actually got to do the deed instead of having his sauce harvested but I honestly have no idea. Dolphins are one of the few animals (and killer whales are the largest dolphin) that have sex for fun but I can’t imagine his mates enjoyed the experience. I imagine if the only other outlet for my frustration were to drown the occasional trainer I’d probably hate fuck anything I got my flippers around.
Anyways this whale is dead which made me wonder what one does with a dead whale. I found an article from Slate about dead zoo animals that was interesting yet somewhat predictable (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2006/01/where_do_zoo_animals_go_when_they_die.html). Animal carcasses are chopped up for cremation, and some tissues are preserved for study. This explanation did inspire me to look up a video of a whale dissection and that was interesting. I don’t recall if credentials were mentioned but I’m assuming its a team of marine biologists who descend on this carcass and hack it to pieces. My favorite part of this video is when whoever is operating the excavator is dragging the whale’s guts all over the beach. I don’t have a better idea of to handle the situation but at the same time it seems like a very inelegant way to handle the problem not to mention laughably disgusting (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIOcq45Yd7s).
A couple more thoughts about dead whales:
1. In 1970 a dead whale washed up on the beach in Florence, Oregon. Town officials weren’t sure what to do with the carcass so they decided to blast it with dynamite. Seriously. Here’s a link to the original news broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUctxmz3zOY
2. In 2004 a dead whale washed ashore in Taiwan. Taiwanese scientists were eager to study the whale and loaded the carcass on a flatbed truck. While being moved through Tainan City gases that had been building up within caused the corpse to burst leading to the area being showered in whale guts. Here’s a fun clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aicIbUvE5tw&t=124s