Daily TWiP Archives

Something interesting has happened on (just about) every day of the year, and Daily TWiP provides the proof. An offshoot of my local events column The Week in Preview (affectionately known as TWiP), Daily TWiP was published April 2008-Aug. 2011 and is still giving readers reasons to celebrate.

More in "Daily TWiP"

Daily TWiP – Jan. 26, 2004: Dead whale unexpectedly explodes in Tainan, Taiwan

There’s a reason whale watching is usually done from a distance – with such a large creature, it’s impossible to predict what might happen if you get too close. 600 enthusiastic bystanders learned this the hard way when the dead sperm whale they were following through the streets of Tainan, Taiwan, suddenly exploded Jan. 26, 2004.

The 60-ton, 56-foot-long whale had been found beached on the southwestern coast of the island just over a week earlier on Jan. 17. At that time, it was the largest whale ever recorded in Taiwan. Researchers decided to perform a necropsy (which is like an autopsy but for animals) to determine how the whale had died.

It took 13 hours for the combined efforts of three cranes and 50 workers to load the whale onto a flatbed truck. Under the direction of Professor Wang Chien-ping, the whale was transported to the laboratory at Tainan’s National Cheung Kung University.

The university appears to have been less than thrilled when Wang showed up on their doorstep with an enormous dead whale, as they informed him that he would not be able to perform the necropsy there. Wang and his crew turned their whale around and headed back through the streets of Tainan toward the Sutsao Wild Life Reservation Area.

It was at that moment, right in the middle of a busy street, that the whale exploded. The crowd of curious onlookers who had been following the whale (and the street vendors who had tagged along in hopes of making a few sales) found themselves showered with a foul-smelling mix of blood and entrails.

Storefronts, cars and the street itself were covered with the stinking mess. Traffic ground to a halt, taking the phrase “intestinal blockage” to a whole new level.

Business owners and residents donned masks and joined forces to clean up the area. It took several hours before order was restored.

Amazingly, there was still enough of the whale left for Wang and his fellow researchers to perform a necropsy. The explosion, they discovered, had been caused by a buildup of natural gases inside the decomposing whale.

Although the whale’s remains are long gone from the streets of Tainan, you can still see a few bits and pieces on display at the Taijiang Cetacean Museum. The whale’s skeleton, along with some organs and tissues, were preserved by Wang and have made their home at the museum since April of 2005.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Jan. 26, 2010.

Browse the compendium

Compendium (noun): a summary or abridgment.

Click the icons to the right to check out a sampling of my work.