14 Apr2011

We were walking on the “main street” in Culion, near the front of the Sanitarium, and Mrs. MM spied something unusual through an open door. The large room turned out to be the science laboratory of the nearby school and there were a whole bunch of fairly humongous bones on a side table. Mrs. MM asked some locals and was told they were the bones of a dugong or manatee. We were invited in to take a closer look and I was pretty certain that these were much chunkier and longer a set of bones than that of a dugong, so we got a little closer…

The explanation was right on the wall. These were the remains of one of several whales (type unspecified) that had beached themselves on the island in 1964, and since they were so enormous and locals couldn’t help get them back in the water, 7 whales died.

Whales “beaching” themselves happens every few years or so, and its a mystery why the animals do this. Here’s a brief article in Scientific American that explains these “mass strandings” a bit more. But suffice it to say this has been observed for hundreds and hundreds of years in places all over the world.

The bones were impressive in that they were huge for the size of the animal. The graceful lumbering whales in videos or photos seem like a huge lump of flesh, but obviously, they are supported by these massive bone structures…

Yet another little “aha!” moment from a serendipitous glance through an open door. :)



  1. zena says:

    Wow, those bones are huge!

    Apr 14, 2011 | 6:17 am


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  3. Footloose says:

    Obviously, disposing of the carcasses of beached cetaceans is a stinking whale of a problem. The Oregon Highway Division in the seventies dispersed theirs by blowing the humongous remains with dynamite right on the beach. Youtube holds a rich vein of clips of these planned explosions. The clip that I find even more revolting though is one that came from Taiwan where a dead whale being transported on an open-bed truck spontaneously exploded in mid-traffic.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 6:40 am

  4. Scramoodles says:

    Found whale bones too in the natural museum of history in los banos and more. You might find some of the specimen a tad bit too graphic too, especially the ones in jars.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 8:04 am

  5. cumin says:

    Amazing what you come across on a quiet stroll! Will wait for breakfast to settle before clicking on Footloose’s YouTube link.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 8:17 am

  6. millet says:

    one of the things why this blog is so interesting, MM…you and Mrs. MM are always curious and thus open to serendipity. thanks!

    there is a similar whale skeleton display in silliman university, and sometime last year, a dead whale was found off davao oriental. the skeleton is being cleaned up and prepared for exhibition, and a permanent exhibition site is being planned.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 9:36 am

  7. cora says:

    cool post!

    Apr 14, 2011 | 10:00 am

  8. jigs says:

    Curiosity truly has its rewards.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 11:11 am

  9. lee says:

    Any place has more than one story. There are always angles, twists and other tales waiting to unfold.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 11:15 am

  10. zerho says:

    Laughed at the last part of the note, very typical filipino behaviour..

    Apr 14, 2011 | 12:13 pm

  11. Eden says:

    Oh WOW! I just booked “The Whale Bus” to visit my classroom and give my Kindergartners a hands’on experience when we study “By The Sea” next month. The Whale Bus brings whale bones to my classroom, some balleen, etc…
    I am glad the school in Culion Island is providing the students an opportunity for some fun and realistic learning.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 12:15 pm

  12. Connie C says:

    Beyond surreal, Footloose and what a whale of an explosion! wise decision, cumin.

    Must be the “inspiration” for a recent episode in the “Body of Proof” TV series I happened to watch the other night where the belly of a decomposing human body subjected to certain environmental conditions in an open experimental dead body farm started to pulsate then explode the belly contents………and the characters thought it funny…so morbid!!!

    Again , Footloose, your information simply amaze me.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 12:25 pm

  13. quiapo says:

    Did you notice vestiges of a pelvis, from when they were large wolf-like land creatures?

    Apr 14, 2011 | 2:43 pm

  14. Jeyk says:

    WOW! These bones are display in our Science Laboratory of Loyola College of Culion. I’m from there and this post made me so proud of my hometown though. :)
    Thanks for posting.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 7:33 pm

  15. Kasseopeia says:

    @Footloose: OMG! I am so glad I’m done with dinner. Even for someone who can handle her blood and gore, that was… one whale of a problem (to quote the article from MM’s link).

    Curiosity, in this case, killed not the cat but actually made some minds come to life. =)

    Apr 14, 2011 | 9:39 pm

  16. allen says:

    I read about that incident in Taiwan, Footloose. I can’t imagine walking peacefully on the street then suddenly a big explosion coming from a truck two blocks away would splatter everything with whale blood and slabs of meat. I think it was because of the pressure of the gas produce by decomposition of the internal organs of the whale trapped inside its body.

    Apr 14, 2011 | 9:43 pm

  17. tonceq says:

    Bloody hell… and I mean that literally! It would have been surprising to suddenly be covered in whale guts as you quietly go about your business on a normal day! These bones are so fascinating! The details on each animal’s skeletal framework is exasperating, Whoever designed us must have had a heck of a time! :)

    Apr 14, 2011 | 10:02 pm

  18. Ryan says:

    I wonder if we can make good stock out of those? o.o

    Apr 14, 2011 | 11:18 pm

  19. Footloose says:

    Connie C, here’s another one for you since you brought up something similar. Apocryphal for obvious reasons was the rumor that a certain religious leader was so bent on his remains not corrupting that he arranged for a still experimental embalming procedure to be tested on his corpse. The dubious outcome was while his body was lying in state, it burst and three of the dauntless Swiss guards close to the catafalque passed out.

    Apr 15, 2011 | 9:42 am


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