Mystery lump on beach mistaken for alien

BY JEFF TOLLAN
Last updated 05:00 29/10/2009
CREATURE FROM THE DEEP: Rose Fraser was baffled by this find on Temuka's Browns Beach yesterday. It turned out to be from the top of a sperm whale's head.
JOHN BISSET/ The Timaru Herald
CREATURE FROM THE DEEP: Rose Fraser was baffled by this find on Temuka's Browns Beach yesterday. It turned out to be from the top of a sperm whale's head.

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From the briny depths of the South Pacific has come a massive ... something; which has parked itself on the stony shoreline of a Temuka beach.

Rose Fraser was walking along Browns Beach yesterday morning when she spotted the lump of stuff.

"I first saw it from a distance and I thought: 'That's a big white rock on the shore line ... that wasn't there four days ago'." As she got closer to the thing she thought it could be a piece of driftwood – a really big bit of driftwood – but upon reaching it, Miss Fraser's thoughts turned from sea to sky.

"I must admit, I thought: 'Heck, this is an alien'. It looks like it's got big ribs coming out of it, but it looks like they could be tentacles, so I don't know."

Cautiously, and ready to run should the thing suddenly leap into life, Miss Fraser lobbed a rock at it, then prodded it with a stick. Whatever it was, it sat there, not moving. All it did was emit a slight odour.

After Miss Fraser rang The Herald, a photo of the woolly, stringy object was sent to the Department of Conservation in Wellington, who sent it to Niwa and Te Papa. It was also sent to Otago University's whale experts.

After a flurry of emails a consensus was reached.

It was the top – essentially the stuffing – of a sperm whale's head.

As the blob was soft tissue, compartmentalised and big, it was likely to be the large spermaceti organ and "junk" of a sperm whale, probably male.

Those structures deal with sound beam focusing in sperm whales and related whales and dolphins and were also filled with a straw-coloured oily wax called spermaceti or case oil.

It is not yet known what will happen to the blob of whale.

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- The Timaru Herald

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