My assurances in regards to the power and persistence of dead whale scents

by brian lam

Consider rotting tons of salty, decomposing whale flesh with intestines and blubber pouring out of shark bites. It sounds like it smells bad, doesn’t it? Well, if you have doubts, I can put them to rest for you.

A large whale carcass washed up on Ocean Beach, in San Francisco, this week. From the photos, the whale’s body had been chewed on by many sharks, and it was even larger than the whale that had been found on the bow of a ship in the bay earlier in the week, at around 50 feet long.

I went to check it out with some buddies and the dogs, but they’d already buried it.

The smell was still in the air, and the dogs were digging around inside the police barriers, which was sort of cute. Then the wind shifted and put the full brunt of the smell–a combination of sushi and caviar with a hint of rotting bum vomit–on us. The sun was going down, and we left for our cars parked on Great Highway. On closing the door I became sheltered from the wind, I realized that the smell had followed me in. I put my nose close to Ruby the dog’s paws. And I smelled my own feet and flip flops. And I smelled whale carcass to such a degree that I tasted it. That smell wasn’t only in the air, it was embedded in the sand that they’d dragged the whale across to bury it.

Two minutes later, at my house, my friends ran out of their pick ups and grabbed the hose, and washed off their shoes. Robert’s moccasins were raw leather on the bottom and he had to scrape them clean. Stefans New balances were washed in my bathtub and came away pretty clean very quickly. My feet were washed, but my sandals were a loss. Something about the rubber carried and held the smell very effectively. And I chased down the dogs and gave them both two baths each, the second one a necessary and focused doggie foot massage to get the stink out from between their toes.

Today, I learned two things. Dead whales smell like questionable sushi joints and if they bury a whale, steer clear because it will make your feet smell the same.

[video by k9]

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