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Small town faced big question: What to do with 29-ton dead whale that could explode?

The Duxbury Police sent out this photo after the whale washed ashore on Duxbury Beach Monday. The immediate area was closed.
The Duxbury Police sent out this photo after the whale washed ashore on Duxbury Beach Monday. The immediate area was closed.

A 52-foot-long fin whale washed up on a Massachusetts beach Monday, giving the town of Duxbury a big and potentially dangerous problem.

What do you do with a 29-ton corpse that is starting to stink and decompose?

That’s 58,000 pounds of fish — so much that it snapped the chain when an excavator tried pulling the whale up the beach. That moment was caught on video and tweeted by CBS reporter Anaridis Rodriguez.

As for the dangers involved, gases can build up in rotting whales, creating what amounts to a giant balloon made of very tough skin and thick blubber, reports National Geographic. Sometimes, the gases can actually cause the carcass to explode. “No one knows when the whale’s going to blow, if at all,” according to National Geographic.

Duxbury Police tweeted Monday that the beach around the whale was closed, with Duxbury Beach Reservation officials calling the death “a sad and shocking sight” in a release posted Wednesday. The town blamed the beaching on strong winds and waves that “rolled” it ashore, according to the release.

The Massachusetts Whale and Dolphin Conservation said the whale had been dead at least a day before hitting land, according to a Fox News report that said the carcass was seen Sunday in the waters off the Stellwagen Bank National Sanctuary.

Scientists checked out the carcass Monday and are trying to determine what killed it, reported Boston.com.

As for what became of the corpse, the Duxbury Beach Reservation contracted someone to bury it on the beach, the Duxbury Police told McClatchy.

However, it was not buried not in one piece.

The carcass was cut up and dragged away by an excavator, to be buried in a 20-foot grave along nearby Duxbury Bay, reported the Boston Globe.

Fin whales are endangered and can grow up to 80 feet in length and 80 tons, according to WorldWildlife.org.

Fisherman Troy Bickle captured video of a whale bumping into Ocean City fishing pier in Maryland while on a fishing trip on April 20. The whale can be seen swimming close to the pier and slightly bumping it before swimming away.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs
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