How do you move a 54-foot-long, 110,000-pound beached whale? Honestly, it sounds impossible. At least, it did in April 1928, when the massive carcass of a sperm whale washed ashore
How do you move a 54-foot-long, 110,000-pound beached whale? Honestly, it sounds impossible. At least, it did in April 1928, when the massive carcass of a sperm whale washed ashore one morning at Wrightsville Beach. Initially, the mammal became a tourist attraction, drawing an estimated 50,000 gawkers.
Soon, though, the dead whale — as dead whales tend to do — reeked. Like a “factory for unexpurgated skunks,” mused H.H. Brimley, director of the State Museum (now the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences) in Raleigh, who hoped to claim the whale’s skeleton for the museum. The town mayor happily obliged Brimley’s proposal, but the project quickly became a comedy of errors.
First, when Brimley didn’t make whale-moving arrangements quickly enough, exasperated town officials ordered a marine towing company to drag the carcass out to sea, but the tugboat couldn’t budge it.
Meanwhile, Brimley had his assistant saw off the whale’s 600-pound lower jawbone for a museum souvenir, but an overnight storm blew the mandible out to sea. (Or it was stolen, depending on whom you believe.) Brimley devised an alternate plan to have the whale towed to Topsail Island, where a museum crew dissected it and buried the carcass in the sand to finish decomposing.
The whale finally made it to Raleigh. It eventually went on display in February 1930 — nearly two years after washing ashore — and it still hangs in the museum today. Despite Brimley’s attempt to dub the skeletal specimen “Wrightsville,” his amused friends gave the whale a more fitting name — “Trouble” — and that’s the one that stuck.