Jul 072009
Overhead view of a Fin Whale feeding

Image via Wikipedia

Last night on Channel 4 “Inside Nature’s Giants” showed the in-situ autopsy of a fin whale that stranded in Courtmacsherry Bay, West Cork back in January.

We all watched last week’s show, in which the team dismembered an elephant, in rapt fascination. Even the five-year-old was allowed to stay up, and was full of questions that, thankfully, the programme answered.

It was amazing – if a little on the grizzly side.

This week it was the turn of the whale.

As we’d all been up to see the unfortunate whale the day it died, the girls were incredibly excited to see the programme.

But I have to say that despite being very interesting, and revealing some astonishing facts, conducting the autopsy in the field while battling the tides and the worst of the Irish winter took the edge off the operation.

The elephant, in the controlled environment of London’s Royal Veterinary College, had been an exercise in clinical precision. The whale, in contrast, was a race against the elements – a race that meant things we could have seen, we didn’t get to see, or at least didn’t get to see as clearly as we might have.

The girls were thrilled to watch the dissection of the whale that they’d seen lying on the beach – but for me the programme itself wasn’t as engaging and informative as the elephant one the week before.

Next week it’s back to the Royal Veterinary College, where the subject going under the knife is a crocodile. Should be revealing!

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Jun 292009
Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) photographed...

Image via Wikipedia

I just got this via e-mail from Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

Apparently the autopsy of the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) that stranded in Courtmacsherry bay in West Cork back in January is going to be shown in a new Channel 4 series called Inside Nature’s Giants.

Here’s the e-mail text:


The post-mortem of the fin whale stranded in Courtmacsherry Bay in January 2009 will be shown on Channel 4 in a new series starting this week.

The programme is entitled "Inside Nature’s Giants" and the four part series covers an Elephant (29 June), Fin whale (6 July), Crocodile (13 July) and Giraffe (20 July). All programmes are at 9pm on Channel 4.

The IWDG were contacted by Channel 4 the day the whale stranded having picked up the story from our website. As we did not know what was going to happen to the whale, or subsequently its’ carcass, it was hard to know how we could facilitate and whether indeed a post-mortem could be carried out. We had never tackled such a large animal before so were literally going into the unknown.

After lengthy discussion Windfall Films decided to fly over a large whale researcher from the US. Even then access to the whale was not certain as Cork County Council policy was removal or burial. Fortunately everything worked out and Channel 4 got their autopsy, we learnt more about whales in Ireland, Cork County Council got the whale removed and Kilbrittain community got their skeleton !   Joy Reidenberg from the US was absolutely incredible and took us all through the process of post-mortem examination of a large whale.

See the amazing footage on Channel 4 at 9pm on Monday 6th July.


Sounds a tad on the gruesome side… but I, for one, will be watching with interest. The series kicks off tonight with the dissection of an elephant!

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