Dead sperm whale buried on Bar Beach

FATAL ATTRACTION: An excavator buries the 20-tonne sperm whale deep in sand at Bar Beach yesterday, watched by a fascinated crowd. - Pictures by Darren Pateman
FATAL ATTRACTION: An excavator buries the 20-tonne sperm whale deep in sand at Bar Beach yesterday, watched by a fascinated crowd. - Pictures by Darren Pateman
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EVEN in death – awful, putrid, decomposing death – these giants of the sea can still pull a crowd.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Novocastrians have packed the southern end of Bar Beach for a look at the 11.5-metre, 20-tonne sperm whale that was blown in on Sunday afternoon on the back of the prevailing winds and swell.

They battled the elements, some posing for photographs while others wondered at its immensity.

They returned yesterday, cowering in the teeth of a howling onshore wind as an excavator pushed the rotting carcass into its final resting place, a three-metre deep seaside grave with a view to, well, die for.

And this magnificent specimen has taken many secrets to the grave.

Hungry sharks have caused too much damage for experts to determine its gender.

And whether it was male or female could well have helped in estimating its age.

National Parks and Wildlife Service regional manager Tom Bagnat said if it was a female, then 11.5-metres in length was spot on for a mature female.

But if it were a male, then he was the equivalent of a teenager – male sperm whales can reach about 17metres long.

He or she had been dead for some time. There were reported sightings of the whale floating off the coast several days ago, before it was washed into shore.

National Parks and Wildlife experts took samples to see if they could determine a cause of death.

Mr Bagnat said the state of decay, and its public viewing, made it impractical for a full autopsy.

There were no major or obvious signs of trauma.

A calcified-type growth in its upper jaw could point to something, Mr Bagnat said.

Experts were confident that the rotting carcass would not attract sharks by seeping oil and its scent back to the sea.

‘‘That is a myth at best,’’ Mr Bagnat said.