Sperm Whale Beaches In North Iceland - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Sperm Whale Beaches In North Iceland

Published January 26, 2017

Photos by
Valdimar Halldórsson

The Húsavík Whale Museum shared an incredible discovery last Tuesday.

Iceland is known for its plethora of whales, drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists every year who hope to catch a glimpse of them. Sometimes, though, the whales come to you.

Whales beaching themselves is not an uncommon phenomenon in Iceland. In fact, the Icelandic word for a beached whale, hvalreki, is used in common parlance the same way the English use “windfall”. This becomes more evident in the various ways beached whales have been used in the recent past in Iceland.

For example, in 2014, the Penis Museum put in a request for the penis of a beached sperm whale which has washed up in the Westfjords.

In 2013, a group of pilot whales beached themselves in Snæfellsnes, prompting many locals to descend upon them and butcher them for their meat. The act was not only dangerous, on account of the high levels of mercury in pilot whale meat, but it was suspected that some of the whales might have even been butchered alive.

In 2012, the jawbone of a beached sperm whale was poached for its ivory, which can fetch a hefty price on the black market. The perpetrators were never apprehended.

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