Whale blubber bound for the compost pile

  • Nit Lemley, a volunteer from Mendocino, pulls a large section of blubber from the carcass of a 70 ft. blue whale killed in an open ocean collision with a research ship last week. The whale washed up just south of Ft. Bragg researchers from Humboldt State will haul away the pieces and bury the skeleton for a time before digging it back up and reassembling the bones.

Tons of rotting, putrid whale blubber and meat is being trucked from Fort Bragg to Potter Valley, where it will metamorphose into soil-nourishing fertilizer.

It's a fitting use for the less valuable parts of the 72-foot blue whale that died after colliding with a research ship off the Fort Bragg coast last week, said organizers who are working to salvage its skeleton for science and education.

"This was the most appealing option," said Abbie Colbert.

She's helping to organize the massive volunteer effort to raise the whale's carcass from the inlet where it's lodged. The skeleton and skull will be buried in a location deep in a forest for several years until microbes and bugs eat it clean. It then will be reassembled and displayed somewhere in Fort Bragg.

But the blubber and as much flesh as possible had to be removed in preparation of sectioning the whale so it can be lifted up a 40 foot bluff to its burial ground.

Organizers thought they'd also have to bury the blubber because it's illegal to use marine mammal parts for commercial purposes.

But a resourceful composter in Potter Valley came up with an alternative plan.

Martin Mileck, owner of Cold Creek Compost, said he'll turn the blubber into compost and then donate an equivalent amount of compost to schools and senior garden projects.

Mileck said composting the whale will be a cinch and he's not worried about the stench.

"If the composting process is properly done, it takes care of the odors," he said. "The nastiest stuff society makes ends up at our place and we make it smell nice."

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