Nostalgia: Raising a stink over a washed-up whale

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Residents in Kinghorn were forced to keep their windows and doors closed due to the rancid smell coming from the beach in May 2007.

The cause of this most foul odour? The rotting carcass of a dead killer whale.

Council workers begin trying to remove the carcass

Council workers begin trying to remove the carcass

The deceased beast washed up on the beach on Friday, May 18. Immediately residents called Fife Council to advise them of the situation, expecting that the authority would react swiftly.

But, much to their horror, day after day passed with the decomposing corpse still left unattended – and the unbearable stench only getting worse, causing some people in the town to literally vomit.

One resident, David Holdsworth told the FFP that his conservatory was only eight feet from where the half-tonne whale was lying.

”My window cleaner vomited when he came to the house because of the smell of the whale. I cannot even begin to describe just how strong it was.

The whale is lifted away

The whale is lifted away

”We have to keep every window closed and even then, the smell still seeped in.

“The council, had the opportunity to clear the whale up on Friday or Saturday.”

In fact, the situation rumbled on until Tuesday May 22, when Council officials eventually arranged for the removal of the corpse, which had almost shrunk in size by half at this point.

Then Area Parks Manager, Brian Shand, apologised to locals for the delay in response and promised an investigation.

He said that he had only learned of the situation on the Monday and was unsure how communications within his department had broken down after one of his colleagues had fielded the initial raft of phone calls from residents in Kinghorn.

“I will establish the facts – I am very concerned,” he said.

“We will review how we handle these cases in the future.”

Indeed Mr Shand himself admitted that the stench from the rotting whale corpse had caused him to “nearly be sick” when he visited the site with his workers as they tried to establish the best course of action for its removal.

With vehicular access onto the beach virtually impossible and the whale in a difficult location on high rocks, the team had a tricky task on their hands and a number of options were considered.

Attaching an anchor to the whale and dragging it to land further up the coast was suggested, but there were fears the whale’s carcass might disintegrate during the journey.

In the end, with a loan of a crane and jetty from a Kinghorn local, the workers were able to wrap the whale in plastic sheets, lift it onto a trailer and tow it away.

It proved to be a difficult and time consuming process – the entire operation lasted over three hours.

Mr Holdsworth paid tribute to the Fife Council team for the hard work they put in, even when they were turning green at the gills.

“The men that came to clear it up deserve a medal,” he said.

“They literally had to wade into the sea and hold the whale to wrap it up.”

He added: “They remained cheerful throughout, yet there were times they were forced to step away because they were retching due to the smell.”

Whale expert, Dr Andrew Kitchener from the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, told the FFP that the whale could have been struck by a boat, causing it to drown, as there was no visible damage to its body, other than a bruise near the blow-hole.

It was estimated that it could have been dead for up to three weeks before finally washing up on Kinghorn beach.