Whale carcass set alight

9.4m humpback washed up on the Hamburg beach recently

A 9.4m whale carcass was set alight and left to burn in the parking lot of Hamburg's Blue Flag beach over the weekend. The whale washed up on Wednesday last week
A 9.4m whale carcass was set alight and left to burn in the parking lot of Hamburg's Blue Flag beach over the weekend. The whale washed up on Wednesday last week
Image: Tracey Mace

A whale carcass was set alight and left burning in the parking lot of Hamburg’s blue flag beach at the weekend.

The 9.4m humpback whale washed up on the Hamburg beach on Wednesday, according to resident Tracey Mace.

East London Museum scientist Kevin Cole was on the scene on Friday and said he had advised municipal officials to cut up the carcass and bury it to remove it from the beach.

But according to Mace, the whale carcass was instead moved up to the beach’s parking lot and set alight on Friday afternoon.

Mace said: “I am absolutely livid with the municipality. On Friday afternoon, an excavator was brought in and they picked it up and moved it to the car park, not even 50m away.”

She said the whale carcass was placed over rubber tyres and petrol was poured over it before it was set alight.

“While the fuel was burning, some guys were hacking pieces off the whale.

“When I asked them what they were doing, they said they were cutting pieces off to sell to sangomas,” she said.

Ngqushwa local municipality spokesperson Ncumisa Cakwe said on Sunday the initial plan was to cut the carcass into smaller pieces and drop them into the ocean to replenish the ocean nutrient cycle.

“However we could not get a boat to do the task and the municipality had to act quickly as it was becoming a health hazard and a problem for the Blue Flag beach.

“The other option was to transport it to a landfill site and bury it but the site at Peddie is not suitable for such a thing.

“The only option was to first incinerate it and then transport the ashes to the landfill.

“The car park was chosen because there was no suitable truck available at the time to transport the carcass.

“The remnants of the carcass and the contaminated sand are being transported to the landfill. We tried our best to ensure public safety,” she said.

In videos and photographs sent to the Daily Dispatch by Mace, the half burnt carcass was still smoking in the parking lot on Sunday morning.

Mace said after sending queries to Ngqushwa municipality authorities, she was told the municipality did a feasibility study and found that burying the carcass would have been too costly.

Cole said: “I advised them that cutting it up and burying it would be the best course to take and that is what was agreed on, so it came as a surprise when I was contacted and told that they were burning the carcass.”

He said the burning blubber posed various threats, but the most damming was the environmental damage it could do.

“It’s a Blue Flag public beach so to have a whale carcass burning right in the parking lot is definitely a hazard.

“There is a high fat content in a whale’s blubber so once its ignited who knows how long it could burn for?

“If it were in a controlled environment, it would be a different story, but there is no way of making sure that the fire doesn’t spread to the dune forest nearby.

“We also haven’t had a lot of rainfall, so the added dryness makes it a bigger fire hazard and danger to the environment,” Cole said.

Cole said he would be calling for an investigation into the action taken by the municipality to burn the whale carcass as he believed that it had not been sanctioned properly.