One man’s moving experience with a whale

Fish museum owner recalls 2006 recovery of marine mammal

Published on May 8, 2014

David Boyd of Twillingate has paid close attention to recent media coverage concerning the fate of whale carcasses decomposing along the shores of western Newfoundland and suggests the difficulty of removing their remains has been overstated.

“It’s what one person can do,” he said.

In fall 2006, Boyd towed a rare sei (pronounced “say”) whale from Fortune Harbour to Twillingate. He then brought its carcass to the nearby deserted Trump Island, where he let nature take care of the whale’s flesh before transporting its bones to his fishing museum on South Twillingate Island.

“With the cost of the diesel fuel to go and tow the whale 30 miles, with the cost of the gas to go back and forth to check on it in my speedboat, and with the iron and scrap iron and bolts and everything I scrounged around — because I had to make a frame to put the bones on — I’d say it cost me less than $500.”

Boyd heard about the whale in Fortune Harbour on the radio and decided to enquire about the carcass’s future. According to the World Wildlife Fund, sei whales are endangered.

“I’m not sure what caused this whale to go ashore in Fortune Harbour,” said Boyd, who notes its tail appeared to be broken. “Maybe it was struck by a ship. Who knows? It’s always a shame and a crime when these magnificent creatures beach themselves.”

An arrangement was made for a boat to tow the whale from the beach to the mouth of the harbour to meet Boyd, whose longliner handled the 45-kilometre journey to Twillingate. “These guys had it tied around the tail with a strong rope, and they just passed me the rope,” said Boyd.

The 54-foot carcass remained at the dock beside Boyd’s museum — the Prime Berth Twillingate Fishery and Heritage Centre — for a couple of days before it was towed to Fools Harbour on Trump Island. There, Boyd tied the whale to the shore and built an enclosure around it with help from friends.

“I let the whale stay there then for a couple of years and when the ice came in that spring, it broke my fence. What a mess I had. Blubbery bones. What a state.”

After two years, Boyd removed the bones and took them back to his museum. The bones were cleaned and arranged to present what he claims to be the only fully-articulated sei whale in Canada. Interpretation materials are also on display at a small fishing stage situated next to the whale bones.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew