As dawn broke on the beach, a new large rock appeared amongst the black whinstone boulders. A sperm whale had swum on a collision course with the coast and lay dead on the sand.

Early walkers came out, warmed by fleecy coats and woolly hats; a labrador kept pace with its strolling owner; a trio of fluffy dogs bobbed on leads behind theirs. Everything was as normal until someone noticed the whale.

From that moment the peace of the village was shattered. Hoards of disaster tourists appeared, drawn in as if by some invisible force of nature. By noon, areas were cordoned off and officers of every marine agency prowled the sands in luminous vests, bold lettering announcing their role. Who would think that someone entited ‘Marine Mammal Vet’ could reach those distant shores within such a short time, as if the country were full of such expert individuals waiting half a lifetime for a dehydrated specimen to come along? However they had been spirited up, these fluorescent Lilliputians fussed round the domed head of the roped-off Gulliver.

The whale’s demise became a national news story far outweighing its twenty tons. Speculation regarding the reason for its stranding was rife, as if the retrospective attention could resurrect the beast. Theories included magnetic fields, sunspot activity, naval sonar and fluctuation in sea temperature.

As the week progressed the whale slowly disappeared. Tooth thieves came by night, as if it had left one out under its sandy pillow in the hope of fairy reward. In the light of this crime, security was increased and the jawbone removed by the authorities before it became a trophy arch. Soon, perhaps to pre-empt a raid by greedy corset makers, the knackers’ van was seen parked up the road, and pieces of whale were driven away.

A new dawn broke. The whinstone rocks ruled alone again, and the stench in the sea air was only of seaweed. Early walkers came out, and the trio of fluffy dogs bobbed along the promenade, and normality returned. But everyone still felt sad about the whale.

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    Sandra James
    Sandra James(@sandra-james)
    2 years ago

    I love your story, Susan! Afterwards, everything back to the way it was except no one will pass that place without remembering the whale. It’s a lot like a story that stays with you long after you’ve read it… and I’m sure your story will come back to me whenever I think of whales or the beach. Well done!

    Eric Radcliffe
    Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
    2 years ago

    Hi Susan, what a lovely story of observation surrounding the sad demise of the humble Whale. And isn’t it strange how the trophy seekers suddenly appear from nowhere? I love the way that you made this event so interesting, even to the minor details like the woolly hats, but woolly hats are all part and parcel of this story, as is the Whale. Eric

    Alan Kemister
    Alan Kemister(@alan-kemister)
    2 years ago

    I usually prefer stories with a twist at the end but this one was so well done I couldn’t help being impressed. But, hmmm, maybe there’s something sinister about the lab not returning in the last paragraph. I think that’s it. The lab was responsible for luring the whale to its fate. His job was done, he didn’t need to return.
    Lovely story.

    Genya Johnson
    Genya Johnson(@genya-johnson)
    2 years ago

    A true story and such a sad one. We hear stories about beached whales and it is so sad. I hate to think of trophy hunters. Just the thought of them breaks my heart. A story that will stay with me.

    Linda Rock
    Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
    2 years ago

    Your story was so visual Susan, it felt as if I were watching a play. I loved all the characters wandering that beach. The luminous ‘Marine Mammal Vet’ vest though did force a smile despite the sadness felt for the whale. I think it’s my wicked sense of humour. A story I could read over and over and never get bored.

    Greene M Wills
    Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
    2 years ago

    I witnessed something similar many years ago. It wasn’t a whale but a dolphin. Through your story, you were able to bring back and amplify the feeling of sadness and impotence we all feel at the demise of such beautiful creatures. I really liked it.

    Christer Norrlof
    Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
    2 years ago

    You made a very clear, visual picture of this, apparently true story, Susan. In all its sadness, it was well and beautifully written, easy to visualize the scene. I like the contrast between the harsh, realistic sadness of the event and the playful comparison with Gulliver’s similar fate. It gives an interesting perspective to the story.

    Andrew Carter
    Andrew Carter(@andrew-carter)
    2 years ago

    Such magnificent creatures, Susan. And your story captures humanity’s macabre fascination with them. There were hundreds stranded in Australia’s worst mass stranding late last year, (in Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s West Coast). So many possibilities for why they beach themselves. I love that line about the Lilliputians fussing around the roped-off Gulliver. Sadness following the whale’s demise nicely contrasted the opportunism of the tooth thieves.

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